Daisy Miller

:
A Study
In Two Parts
The Coxon Fund
The Death of the Lion
The Diary of a Man of
Fifty
Sir Dominick Ferrand
Eugene Pickering
by
Henry James
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Daisy Miller: A Study in Two Parts, The Coxon Fund, The
Death of the Lion, The Diary of a Man of Fifty, Sir
Dominick Ferrand, and Eugene Pickering by by Henry James,
ECONARCH Institute,
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the Editor, Indonesia is a Portable Document File
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Henry James
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Contents Contents
Contents Contents Contents
Daisy Miller .................................................................5
The Coxon Fund .......................................................71
The Death of the Lion .............................................142
The Diary of a Man of Fifty.....................................192
Sir Dominick Ferrand ..............................................229
Eugene Pickering .....................................................293
5
Henry James
Daisy Miller:
A Study
In Two Parts
by
Henry James
PART I
AT THE LITTLE TOWN OF VEVEY, in Switzerland, there is a particularly
comfortable hotel. There are, indeed, many hotels, for the enter-
tainment of tourists is the business of the place, which, as many
travelers will remember, is seated upon the edge of a remarkably
blue lake—a lake that it behooves every tourist to visit. The shore of
the lake presents an unbroken array of establishments of this order,
of every category, from the “grand hotel” of the newest fashion,
with a chalk-white front, a hundred balconies, and a dozen flags
flying from its roof, to the little Swiss pension of an elder day, with
its name inscribed in German-looking lettering upon a pink or yel-
low wall and an awkward summerhouse in the angle of the garden.
6
One of the hotels at Vevey, however, is famous, even classical, being
distinguished from many of its upstart neighbors by an air both of
luxury and of maturity. In this region, in the month of June, Ameri-
can travelers are extremely numerous; it may be said, indeed, that
Vevey assumes at this period some of the characteristics of an Ameri-
can watering place. There are sights and sounds which evoke a vi-
sion, an echo, of Newport and Saratoga. There is a flitting hither
and thither of “stylish” young girls, a rustling of muslin flounces, a
rattle of dance music in the morning hours, a sound of high-pitched
voices at all times. You receive an impression of these things at the
excellent inn of the “Trois Couronnes” and are transported in fancy
to the Ocean House or to Congress Hall. But at the “ Trois
Couronnes,” it must be added, there are other features that are much
at variance with these suggestions: neat German waiters, who look
like secretaries of legation; Russian princesses sitting in the garden;
little Polish boys walking about held by the hand, with their gover-
nors; a view of the sunny crest of the Dent du Midi and the pictur-
esque towers of the Castle of Chillon.
I hardly know whether it was the analogies or the differences that
were uppermost in the mind of a young American, who, two or three
years ago, sat in the garden of the “Trois Couronnes,” looking about
him, rather idly, at some of the graceful objects I have mentioned. It
was a beautiful summer morning, and in whatever fashion the young
American looked at things, they must have seemed to him charming.
He had come from Geneva the day before by the little steamer, to see
his aunt, who was staying at the hotel—Geneva having been for a
long time his place of residence. But his aunt had a headache—his
aunt had almost always a headache—and now she was shut up in her
room, smelling camphor, so that he was at liberty to wander about.
He was some seven-and-twenty years of age; when his friends spoke
of him, they usually said that he was at Geneva “studying.” When his
enemies spoke of him, they said—but, after all, he had no enemies;
Daisy Miller
7
Henry James
he was an extremely amiable fellow, and universally liked. What I
should say is, simply, that when certain persons spoke of him they
affirmed that the reason of his spending so much time at Geneva was
that he was extremely devoted to a lady who lived there—a foreign
lady—a person older than himself. Very few Americans—indeed, I
think none—had ever seen this lady, about whom there were some
singular stories. But Winterbourne had an old attachment for the
little metropolis of Calvinism; he had been put to school there as a
boy, and he had afterward gone to college there—circumstances which
had led to his forming a great many youthful friendships. Many of
these he had kept, and they were a source of great satisfaction to him.
After knocking at his aunt’s door and learning that she was indis-
posed, he had taken a walk about the town, and then he had come
in to his breakfast. He had now finished his breakfast; but he was
drinking a small cup of coffee, which had been served to him on a
little table in the garden by one of the waiters who looked like an
attache. At last he finished his coffee and lit a cigarette. Presently a
small boy came walking along the path—an urchin of nine or ten.
The child, who was diminutive for his years, had an aged expression
of countenance, a pale complexion, and sharp little features. He was
dressed in knickerbockers, with red stockings, which displayed his
poor little spindle-shanks; he also wore a brilliant red cravat. He car-
ried in his hand a long alpenstock, the sharp point of which he thrust
into everything that he approached—the flowerbeds, the garden
benches, the trains of the ladies’ dresses. In front of Winterbourne he
paused, looking at him with a pair of bright, penetrating little eyes.
“Will you give me a lump of sugar?” he asked in a sharp, hard
little voice—a voice immature and yet, somehow, not young.
Winterbourne glanced at the small table near him, on which his
coffee service rested, and saw that several morsels of sugar remained.
“Yes, you may take one,” he answered; “but I don’t think sugar is
good for little boys.”
8
This little boy stepped forward and carefully selected three of the
coveted fragments, two of which he buried in the pocket of his
knickerbockers, depositing the other as promptly in another place.
He poked his alpenstock, lance-fashion, into Winterbourne’s bench
and tried to crack the lump of sugar with his teeth.
“Oh, blazes; it’s har-r-d!” he exclaimed, pronouncing the adjec-
tive in a peculiar manner.
Winterbourne had immediately perceived that he might have the
honor of claiming him as a fellow countryman. “Take care you don’t
hurt your teeth,” he said, paternally.
“I haven’t got any teeth to hurt. They have all come out. I have only
got seven teeth. My mother counted them last night, and one came
out right afterward. She said she’d slap me if any more came out. I
can’t help it. It’s this old Europe. It’s the climate that makes them
come out. In America they didn’t come out. It’s these hotels.”
Winterbourne was much amused. “If you eat three lumps of sugar,
your mother will certainly slap you,” he said.
“She’s got to give me some candy, then,” rejoined his young inter-
locutor. “I can’t get any candy here—any American candy. Ameri-
can candy’s the best candy.”
“And are American little boys the best little boys?” asked Winter-
bourne.
“I don’t know. I’m an American boy,” said the child.
“I see you are one of the best!” laughed Winterbourne.
“Are you an American man?” pursued this vivacious infant. And
then, on Winterbourne’s affirmative reply—”American men are the
best,” he declared.
His companion thanked him for the compliment, and the child,
who had now got astride of his alpenstock, stood looking about
him, while he attacked a second lump of sugar. Winterbourne won-
dered if he himself had been like this in his infancy, for he had been
brought to Europe at about this age.
Daisy Miller
9
Henry James
“Here comes my sister!” cried the child in a moment. “She’s an
American girl.”
Winterbourne looked along the path and saw a beautiful young
lady advancing. “American girls are the best girls,” he said cheer-
fully to his young companion.
“My sister ain’t the best!” the child declared. “She’s always blow-
ing at me.”
“I imagine that is your fault, not hers,” said Winterbourne. The
young lady meanwhile had drawn near. She was dressed in white
muslin, with a hundred frills and flounces, and knots of pale-col-
ored ribbon. She was bareheaded, but she balanced in her hand a
large parasol, with a deep border of embroidery; and she was strik-
ingly, admirably pretty. “How pretty they are!” thought Winter-
bourne, straightening himself in his seat, as if he were prepared to
rise.
The young lady paused in front of his bench, near the parapet of
the garden, which overlooked the lake. The little boy had now con-
verted his alpenstock into a vaulting pole, by the aid of which he
was springing about in the gravel and kicking it up not a little.
“Randolph,” said the young lady, “what areyou doing?”
“I’m going up the Alps,” replied Randolph. “This is the way!”
And he gave another little jump, scattering the pebbles about
Winterbourne’s ears.
“That’s the way they come down,” said Winterbourne.
“He’s an American man!” cried Randolph, in his little hard voice.
The young lady gave no heed to this announcement, but looked
straight at her brother. “Well, I guess you had better be quiet,” she
simply observed.
It seemed to Winterbourne that he had been in a manner pre-
sented. He got up and stepped slowly toward the young girl, throw-
ing away his cigarette. “This little boy and I have made acquain-
tance,” he said, with great civility. In Geneva, as he had been per-
10
fectly aware, a young man was not at liberty to speak to a young
unmarried lady except under certain rarely occurring conditions;
but here at Vevey, what conditions could be better than these?—a
pretty American girl coming and standing in front of you in a gar-
den. This pretty American girl, however, on hearing Winterbourne’s
observation, simply glanced at him; she then turned her head and
looked over the parapet, at the lake and the opposite mountains. He
wondered whether he had gone too far, but he decided that he must
advance farther, rather than retreat. While he was thinking of some-
thing else to say, the young lady turned to the little boy again.
“I should like to know where you got that pole,” she said.
“I bought it,” responded Randolph.
“You don’t mean to say you’re going to take it to Italy?”
“Yes, I am going to take it to Italy,” the child declared.
The young girl glanced over the front of her dress and smoothed
out a knot or two of ribbon. Then she rested her eyes upon the
prospect again. “Well, I guess you had better leave it somewhere,”
she said after a moment.
“Are you going to Italy?” Winterbourne inquired in a tone of great
respect.
The young lady glanced at him again. “Yes, sir,” she replied. And
she said nothing more.
“Are you—a— going over the Simplon?” Winterbourne pursued,
a little embarrassed.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I suppose it’s some mountain. Randolph,
what mountain are we going over?”
“Going where?” the child demanded.
“To Italy,” Winterbourne explained.
“I don’t know,” said Randolph. “I don’t want to go to Italy. I want
to go to America.”
“Oh, Italy is a beautiful place!” rejoined the young man.
“Can you get candy there?” Randolph loudly inquired.
Daisy Miller
11
Henry James
“I hope not,” said his sister. “I guess you have had enough candy,
and mother thinks so too.”
“I haven’t had any for ever so long—for a hundred weeks!” cried
the boy, still jumping about.
The young lady inspected her flounces and smoothed her ribbons
again; and Winterbourne presently risked an observation upon the
beauty of the view. He was ceasing to be embarrassed, for he had
begun to perceive that she was not in the least embarrassed herself.
There had not been the slightest alteration in her charming com-
plexion; she was evidently neither offended nor flattered. If she
looked another way when he spoke to her, and seemed not particu-
larly to hear him, this was simply her habit, her manner. Yet, as he
talked a little more and pointed out some of the objects of interest
in the view, with which she appeared quite unacquainted, she gradu-
ally gave him more of the benefit of her glance; and then he saw
that this glance was perfectly direct and unshrinking. It was not,
however, what would have been called an immodest glance, for the
young girl’s eyes were singularly honest and fresh. They were won-
derfully pretty eyes; and, indeed, Winterbourne had not seen for a
long time anything prettier than his fair countrywoman’s various
features—her complexion, her nose, her ears, her teeth. He had a
great relish for feminine beauty; he was addicted to observing and
analyzing it; and as regards this young lady’s face he made several
observations. It was not at all insipid, but it was not exactly expres-
sive; and though it was eminently delicate, Winterbourne mentally
accused it—very forgivingly—of a want of finish. He thought it
very possible that Master Randolph’s sister was a coquette; he was
sure she had a spirit of her own; but in her bright, sweet, superficial
little visage there was no mockery, no irony. Before long it became
obvious that she was much disposed toward conversation. She told
him that they were going to Rome for the winter—she and her
mother and Randolph. She asked him if he was a “real American”;
12
she shouldn’t have taken him for one; he seemed more like a Ger-
man—this was said after a little hesitation—especially when he
spoke. Winterbourne, laughing, answered that he had met Germans
who spoke like Americans, but that he had not, so far as he remem-
bered, met an American who spoke like a German. Then he asked
her if she should not be more comfortable in sitting upon the bench
which he had just quitted. She answered that she liked standing up
and walking about; but she presently sat down. She told him she
was from New York State—”if you know where that is.” Winter-
bourne learned more about her by catching hold of her small, slip-
pery brother and making him stand a few minutes by his side.
“Tell me your name, my boy,” he said.
“Randolph C. Miller,” said the boy sharply. “And I’ll tell you her
name”; and he leveled his alpenstock at his sister.
“You had better wait till you are asked!” said this young lady calmly.
“I should like very much to know your name,” said Winterbourne.
“Her name is Daisy Miller!” cried the child. “But that isn’t her
real name; that isn’t her name on her cards.”
“It’s a pity you haven’t got one of my cards!” said Miss Miller.
“Her real name is Annie P. Miller,” the boy went on.
“Ask him hisname,” said his sister, indicating Winterbourne.
But on this point Randolph seemed perfectly indifferent; he con-
tinued to supply information with regard to his own family. “My
father’s name is Ezra B. Miller,” he announced. “My father ain’t in
Europe; my father’s in a better place than Europe;.”
Winterbourne imagined for a moment that this was the manner
in which the child had been taught to intimate that Mr. Miller had
been removed to the sphere of celestial reward. But Randolph im-
mediately added, “My father’s in Schenectady. He’s got a big busi-
ness. My father’s rich, you bet!”
“Well!” ejaculated Miss Miller, lowering her parasol and looking
at the embroidered border. Winterbourne presently released the child,
Daisy Miller
13
Henry James
who departed, dragging his alpenstock along the path. “He doesn’t
like Europe,” said the young girl. “He wants to go back.”
“To Schenectady, you mean?”
“Yes; he wants to go right home. He hasn’t got any boys here.
There is one boy here, but he always goes round with a teacher; they
won’t let him play.”
“And your brother hasn’t any teacher?” Winterbourne inquired.
“Mother thought of getting him one, to travel round with us.
There was a lady told her of a very good teacher; an American lady—
perhaps you know her—Mrs. Sanders. I think she came from Bos-
ton. She told her of this teacher, and we thought of getting him to
travel round with us. But Randolph said he didn’t want a teacher
traveling round with us. He said he wouldn’t have lessons when he
was in the cars. And we arein the cars about half the time. There
was an English lady we met in the cars—I think her name was Miss
Featherstone; perhaps you know her. She wanted to know why I
didn’t give Randolph lessons—give him ‘instruction,’ she called it. I
guess he could give me more instruction than I could give him. He’s
very smart.”
“Yes,” said Winterbourne; “he seems very smart.”
“Mother’s going to get a teacher for him as soon as we get to Italy.
Can you get good teachers in Italy?”
“Very good, I should think,” said Winterbourne.
“Or else she’s going to find some school. He ought to learn some
more. He’s only nine. He’s going to college.” And in this way Miss
Miller continued to converse upon the affairs of her family and
upon other topics. She sat there with her extremely pretty hands,
ornamented with very brilliant rings, folded in her lap, and with
her pretty eyes now resting upon those of Winterbourne, now wan-
dering over the garden, the people who passed by, and the beautiful
view. She talked to Winterbourne as if she had known him a long
time. He found it very pleasant. It was many years since he had
14
heard a young girl talk so much. It might have been said of this
unknown young lady, who had come and sat down beside him upon
a bench, that she chattered. She was very quiet; she sat in a charm-
ing, tranquil attitude; but her lips and her eyes were constantly
moving. She had a soft, slender, agreeable voice, and her tone was
decidedly sociable. She gave Winterbourne a history of her move-
ments and intentions and those of her mother and brother, in Eu-
rope, and enumerated, in particular, the various hotels at which
they had stopped. “That English lady in the cars,” she said—”Miss
Featherstone—asked me if we didn’t all live in hotels in America. I
told her I had never been in so many hotels in my life as since I
came to Europe. I have never seen so many—it’s nothing but ho-
tels.” But Miss Miller did not make this remark with a querulous
accent; she appeared to be in the best humor with everything. She
declared that the hotels were very good, when once you got used to
their ways, and that Europe was perfectly sweet. She was not disap-
pointed—not a bit. Perhaps it was because she had heard so much
about it before. She had ever so many intimate friends that had
been there ever so many times. And then she had had ever so many
dresses and things from Paris. Whenever she put on a Paris dress she
felt as if she were in Europe.
“It was a kind of a wishing cap,” said Winterbourne.
“Yes,” said Miss Miller without examining this analogy; “it al-
ways made me wish I was here. But I needn’t have done that for
dresses. I am sure they send all the pretty ones to America; you see
the most frightful things here. The only thing I don’t like,” she pro-
ceeded, “is the society. There isn’t any society; or, if there is, I don’t
know where it keeps itself. Do you?I suppose there is some society
somewhere, but I haven’t seen anything of it. I’m very fond of soci-
ety, and I have always had a great deal of it. I don’t mean only in
Schenectady, but in New York. I used to go to New York every
winter. In New York I had lots of society. Last winter I had seven-
Daisy Miller
15
Henry James
teen dinners given me; and three of them were by gentlemen,” added
Dai sy Mi l l er. “ I have more fri ends i n New York t han i n
Schenectady—more gentleman friends; and more young lady friends
too,” she resumed in a moment. She paused again for an instant;
she was looking at Winterbourne with all her prettiness in her lively
eyes and in her light, slightly monotonous smile. “I have always
had,” she said, “a great deal of gentlemen’s society.”
Poor Winterbourne was amused, perplexed, and decidedly charmed.
He had never yet heard a young girl express herself in just this fash-
ion; never, at least, save in cases where to say such things seemed a
kind of demonstrative evidence of a certain laxity of deportment. And
yet was he to accuse Miss Daisy Miller of actual or potential inconduite,
as they said at Geneva?He felt that he had lived at Geneva so long
that he had lost a good deal; he had become dishabituated to the
American tone. Never, indeed, since he had grown old enough to
appreciate things, had he encountered a young American girl of so
pronounced a type as this. Certainly she was very charming, but how
deucedly sociable! Was she simply a pretty girl from New York State?
Were they all like that, the pretty girls who had a good deal of
gentlemen’s society?Or was she also a designing, an audacious, an
unscrupulous young person?Winterbourne had lost his instinct in
this matter, and his reason could not help him. Miss Daisy Miller
looked extremely innocent. Some people had told him that, after all,
American girls were exceedingly innocent; and others had told him
that, after all, they were not. He was inclined to think Miss Daisy
Miller was a flirt—a pretty American flirt. He had never, as yet, had
any relations with young ladies of this category. He had known, here
in Europe, two or three women—persons older than Miss Daisy Miller,
and provided, for respectability’s sake, with husbands—who were great
coquettes—dangerous, terrible women, with whom one’s relations
were liable to take a serious turn. But this young girl was not a co-
quette in that sense; she was very unsophisticated; she was only a
16
pretty American flirt. Winterbourne was almost grateful for having
found the formula that applied to Miss Daisy Miller. He leaned back
in his seat; he remarked to himself that she had the most charming
nose he had ever seen; he wondered what were the regular conditions
and limitations of one’s intercourse with a pretty American flirt. It
presently became apparent that he was on the way to learn.
“Have you been to that old castle?” asked the young girl, pointing
with her parasol to the far-gleaming walls of the Chateau de Chillon.
“Yes, formerly, more than once,” said Winterbourne. “You too, I
suppose, have seen it?”
“No; we haven’t been there. I want to go there dreadfully. Of
course I mean to go there. I wouldn’t go away from here without
having seen that old castle.”
“It’s a very pretty excursion,” said Winterbourne, “and very easy
to make. You can drive, you know, or you can go by the little steamer.”
“You can go in the cars,” said Miss Miller.
“Yes; you can go in the cars,” Winterbourne assented.
“Our courier says they take you right up to the castle,” the young
girl continued. “We were going last week, but my mother gave out.
She suffers dreadfully from dyspepsia. She said she couldn’t go.
Randolph wouldn’t go either; he says he doesn’t think much of old
castles. But I guess we’ll go this week, if we can get Randolph.”
“Your brother is not interested in ancient monuments?” Winter-
bourne inquired, smiling.
“He says he don’t care much about old castles. He’s only nine. He
wants to stay at the hotel. Mother’s afraid to leave him alone, and
the courier won’t stay with him; so we haven’t been to many places.
But it will be too bad if we don’t go up there.” And Miss Miller
pointed again at the Chateau de Chillon.
“I should think it might be arranged,” said Winterbourne.
“ Couldn’t you get some one to stay for the afternoon wi th
Randolph?”
Daisy Miller
17
Henry James
Miss Miller looked at him a moment, and then, very placidly, “I
wish you would stay with him!” she said.
Winterbourne hesitated a moment. “I should much rather go to
Chillon with you.”
“With me?” asked the young girl with the same placidity.
She didn’t rise, blushing, as a young girl at Geneva would have
done; and yet Winterbourne, conscious that he had been very bold,
thought it possible she was offended. “With your mother,” he an-
swered very respectfully.
But it seemed that both his audacity and his respect were lost
upon Miss Daisy Miller. “I guess my mother won’t go, after all,” she
said. “She don’t like to ride round in the afternoon. But did you
really mean what you said just now—that you would like to go up
there?”
“Most earnestly,” Winterbourne declared.
“Then we may arrange it. If mother will stay with Randolph, I
guess Eugenio will.”
“Eugenio?” the young man inquired.
“Eugenio’s our courier. He doesn’t like to stay with Randolph;
he’s the most fastidious man I ever saw. But he’s a splendid courier.
I guess he’ll stay at home with Randolph if mother does, and then
we can go to the castle.”
Winterbourne reflected for an instant as lucidly as possible—”we”
could only mean Miss Daisy Miller and himself. This program
seemed almost too agreeable for credence; he felt as if he ought to
kiss the young lady’s hand. Possibly he would have done so and
quite spoiled the project, but at this moment another person, pre-
sumably Eugenio, appeared. A tall, handsome man, with superb
whiskers, wearing a velvet morning coat and a brilliant watch chain,
approached Miss Miller, looking sharply at her companion. “Oh,
Eugenio!” said Miss Miller with the friendliest accent.
Eugenio had looked at Winterbourne from head to foot; he now
18
bowed gravely to the young lady. “I have the honor to inform ma-
demoiselle that luncheon is upon the table.”
Miss Miller slowly rose. “See here, Eugenio!” she said; “I’m going
to that old castle, anyway.”
“To the Chateau de Chillon, mademoiselle?” the courier inquired.
“Mademoiselle has made arrangements?” he added in a tone which
struck Winterbourne as very impertinent.
Eugenio’s tone apparently threw, even to Miss Miller’s own appre-
hension, a slightly ironical light upon the young girl’s situation. She
turned to Winterbourne, blushing a little—a very little. “You won’t
back out?” she said.
“I shall not be happy till we go!” he protested.
“And you are staying in this hotel?” she went on. “And you are
really an American?”
The courier stood looking at Winterbourne offensively. The young
man, at least, thought his manner of looking an offense to Miss
Miller; it conveyed an imputation that she “picked up” acquaintan-
ces. “I shall have the honor of presenting to you a person who will
tell you all about me,” he said, smiling and referring to his aunt.
“Oh, well, we’ll go some day,” said Miss Miller. And she gave him
a smile and turned away. She put up her parasol and walked back to
the inn beside Eugenio. Winterbourne stood looking after her; and
as she moved away, drawing her muslin furbelows over the gravel,
said to himself that she had the tournure of a princess.
He had, however, engaged to do more than proved feasible, in
promising to present his aunt, Mrs. Costello, to Miss Daisy Miller.
As soon as the former lady had got better of her headache, he waited
upon her in her apartment; and, after the proper inquiries in regard
to her health, he asked her if she had observed in the hotel an Ameri-
can family—a mamma, a daughter, and a little boy.
“And a courier?” said Mrs. Costello. “Oh yes, I have observed them.
Seen them—heard them—and kept out of their way.” Mrs. Costello
Daisy Miller
19
Henry James
was a widow with a fortune; a person of much distinction, who fre-
quently intimated that, if she were not so dreadfully liable to sick head-
aches, she would probably have left a deeper impress upon her time.
She had a long, pale face, a high nose, and a great deal of very striking
white hair, which she wore in large puffs and rouleaux over the top of
her head. She had two sons married in New York and another who was
now in Europe. This young man was amusing himself at Hamburg,
and, though he was on his travels, was rarely perceived to visit any
particular city at the moment selected by his mother for her own ap-
pearance there. Her nephew, who had come up to Vevey expressly to
see her, was therefore more attentive than those who, as she said, were
nearer to her. He had imbibed at Geneva the idea that one must always
be attentive to one’s aunt. Mrs. Costello had not seen him for many
years, and she was greatly pleased with him, manifesting her approba-
tion by initiating him into many of the secrets of that social sway which,
as she gave him to understand, she exerted in the American capital. She
admitted that she was very exclusive; but, if he were acquainted with
New York, he would see that one had to be. And her picture of the
minutely hierarchical constitution of the society of that city, which she
presented to him in many different lights, was, to Winterbourne’s imagi-
nation, almost oppressively striking.
He immediately perceived, from her tone, that Miss Daisy Miller’s
place in the social scale was low. “I am afraid you don’t approve of
them,” he said.
“They are very common,” Mrs. Costello declared. “They are the
sort of Americans that one does one’s duty by not—not accepting.”
“Ah, you don’t accept them?” said the young man.
“I can’t, my dear Frederick. I would if I could, but I can’t.”
“The young girl is very pretty,” said Winterbourne in a moment.
“Of course she’s pretty. But she is very common.”
“I see what you mean, of course,” said Winterbourne after an-
other pause.
20
“She has that charming look that they all have,” his aunt resumed.
“I can’t think where they pick it up; and she dresses in perfection—
no, you don’t know how well she dresses. I can’t think where they
get their taste.”
“But, my dear aunt, she is not, after all, a Comanche savage.”
“She is a young lady,” said Mrs. Costello, “who has an intimacy
with her mamma’s courier.”
“An intimacy with the courier?” the young man demanded.
“Oh, the mother is just as bad! They treat the courier like a famil-
iar friend—like a gentleman. I shouldn’t wonder if he dines with
them. Very likely they have never seen a man with such good man-
ners, such fine clothes, so like a gentleman. He probably corresponds
to the young lady’s idea of a count. He sits with them in the garden
in the evening. I think he smokes.”
Winterbourne listened with interest to these disclosures; they
helped him to make up his mind about Miss Daisy. Evidently she
was rather wild. “Well,” he said, “I am not a courier, and yet she was
very charming to me.”
“You had better have said at first,” said Mrs. Costello with dig-
nity, “that you had made her acquaintance.”
“We simply met in the garden, and we talked a bit.”
“Tout bonnement! And pray what did you say?”
“I said I should take the liberty of introducing her to my admi-
rable aunt.”
“I am much obliged to you.”
“It was to guarantee my respectability,” said Winterbourne.
“And pray who is to guarantee hers?”
“Ah, you are cruel!” said the young man. “She’s a very nice young girl.”
“You don’t say that as if you believed it,” Mrs. Costello observed.
“She is completely uncultivated,” Winterbourne went on. “But
she is wonderfully pretty, and, in short, she is very nice. To prove
that I believe it, I am going to take her to the Chateau de Chillon.”
Daisy Miller
21
Henry James
“You two are going off there together?I should say it proved just
the contrary. How long had you known her, may I ask, when this
interesting project was formed?You haven’t been twenty-four hours
in the house.”
“I have known her half an hour!” said Winterbourne, smiling.
“Dear me!” cried Mrs. Costello. “What a dreadful girl!”
Her nephew was silent for some moments. “You really think, then,”
he began earnestly, and with a desire for trustworthy information—
”you really think that—” But he paused again.
“Think what, sir?” said his aunt.
“That she is the sort of young lady who expects a man, sooner or
later, to carry her off?”
“I haven’t the least idea what such young ladies expect a man to
do. But I really think that you had better not meddle with little
American girls that are uncultivated, as you call them. You have
lived too long out of the country. You will be sure to make some
great mistake. You are too innocent.”
“My dear aunt, I am not so innocent,” said Winterbourne, smil-
ing and curling his mustache.
“You are guilty too, then!”
Winterbourne continued to curl his mustache meditatively. “You
won’t let the poor girl know you then?” he asked at last.
“Is it literally true that she is going to the Chateau de Chillon
with you?”
“I think that she fully intends it.”
“Then, my dear Frederick,” said Mrs. Costello, “I must decline
the honor of her acquaintance. I am an old woman, but I am not
too old, thank Heaven, to be shocked!”
“But don’t they all do these things—the young girls in America?”
Winterbourne inquired.
Mrs. Costello stared a moment. “I should like to see my grand-
daughters do them!” she declared grimly.
22
This seemed to throw some light upon the matter, for Winter-
bourne remembered to have heard that his pretty cousins in New
York were “tremendous flirts.” If, therefore, Miss Daisy Miller ex-
ceeded the liberal margin allowed to these young ladies, it was prob-
able that anything might be expected of her. Winterbourne was im-
patient to see her again, and he was vexed with himself that, by
instinct, he should not appreciate her justly.
Though he was impatient to see her, he hardly knew what he
should say to her about his aunt’s refusal to become acquainted with
her; but he discovered, promptly enough, that with Miss Daisy Miller
there was no great need of walking on tiptoe. He found her that
evening in the garden, wandering about in the warm starlight like
an indolent sylph, and swinging to and fro the largest fan he had
ever beheld. It was ten o’clock. He had dined with his aunt, had
been sitting with her since dinner, and had just taken leave of her
till the morrow. Miss Daisy Miller seemed very glad to see him; she
declared it was the longest evening she had ever passed.
“Have you been all alone?” he asked.
“I have been walking round with mother. But mother gets tired
walking round,” she answered.
“Has she gone to bed?”
“No; she doesn’t like to go to bed,” said the young girl. “She doesn’t
sleep—not three hours. She says she doesn’t know how she lives.
She’s dreadfully nervous. I guess she sleeps more than she thinks.
She’s gone somewhere after Randolph; she wants to try to get him
to go to bed. He doesn’t like to go to bed.”
“Let us hope she will persuade him,” observed Winterbourne.
“She will talk to him all she can; but he doesn’t like her to talk to
him,” said Miss Daisy, opening her fan. “She’s going to try to get
Eugenio to talk to him. But he isn’t afraid of Eugenio. Eugenio’s a
splendid courier, but he can’t make much impression on Randolph!
I don’t believe he’ll go to bed before eleven.” It appeared that
Daisy Miller
23
Henry James
Randolph’s vigil was in fact triumphantly prolonged, for Winter-
bourne strolled about with the young girl for some time without
meeting her mother. “I have been looking round for that lady you
want to introduce me to,” his companion resumed. “She’s your aunt.”
Then, on Winterbourne’s admitting the fact and expressing some
curiosity as to how she had learned it, she said she had heard all
about Mrs. Costello from the chambermaid. She was very quiet and
very comme il faut; she wore white puffs; she spoke to no one, and
she never dined at the table d’hote. Every two days she had a head-
ache. “I think that’s a lovely description, headache and all!” said
Miss Daisy, chattering along in her thin, gay voice. “I want to know
her ever so much. I know just what YOUR aunt would be; I know
I should like her. She would be very exclusive. I like a lady to be
exclusive; I’m dying to be exclusive myself. Well, we areexclusive,
mother and I. We don’t speak to everyone—or they don’t speak to
us. I suppose it’s about the same thing. Anyway, I shall be ever so
glad to know your aunt.”
Winterbourne was embarrassed. “She would be most happy,” he
said; “but I am afraid those headaches will interfere.”
The young girl looked at him through the dusk. “But I suppose
she doesn’t have a headache every day,” she said sympathetically.
Winterbourne was silent a moment. “She tells me she does,” he
answered at last, not knowing what to say.
Miss Daisy Miller stopped and stood looking at him. Her pretti-
ness was still visible in the darkness; she was opening and closing
her enormous fan. “She doesn’t want to know me!” she said sud-
denly. “Why don’t you say so?You needn’t be afraid. I’m not afraid!”
And she gave a little laugh.
Winterbourne fancied there was a tremor in her voice; he was
touched, shocked, mortified by it. “My dear young lady,” he pro-
tested, “she knows no one. It’s her wretched health.”
The young girl walked on a few steps, laughing still. “You needn’t
24
be afraid,” she repeated. “Why should she want to know me?” Then
she paused again; she was close to the parapet of the garden, and in
front of her was the starlit lake. There was a vague sheen upon its
surface, and in the distance were dimly seen mountain forms. Daisy
Miller looked out upon the mysterious prospect and then she gave
another little laugh. “Gracious! she IS exclusive!” she said. Winter-
bourne wondered whether she was seriously wounded, and for a
moment almost wished that her sense of injury might be such as to
make it becoming in him to attempt to reassure and comfort her.
He had a pleasant sense that she would be very approachable for
consolatory purposes. He felt then, for the instant, quite ready to
sacrifice his aunt, conversationally; to admit that she was a proud,
rude woman, and to declare that they needn’t mind her. But before
he had time to commit himself to this perilous mixture of gallantry
and impiety, the young lady, resuming her walk, gave an exclama-
tion in quite another tone. “Well, here’s Mother! I guess she hasn’t
got Randolph to go to bed.” The figure of a lady appeared at a
distance, very indistinct in the darkness, and advancing with a slow
and wavering movement. Suddenly it seemed to pause.
“Are you sure it is your mother?Can you distinguish her in this
thick dusk?” Winterbourne asked.
“Well!” cried Miss Daisy Miller with a laugh; “I guess I know my
own mother. And when she has got on my shawl, too! She is always
wearing my things.”
The lady in question, ceasing to advance, hovered vaguely about
the spot at which she had checked her steps.
“I am afraid your mother doesn’t see you,” said Winterbourne.
“Or perhaps,” he added, thinking, with Miss Miller, the joke per-
missible—”perhaps she feels guilty about your shawl.”
“Oh, it’s a fearful old thing!” the young girl replied serenely. “I
told her she could wear it. She won’t come here because she sees
you.”
Daisy Miller
25
Henry James
“Ah, then,” said Winterbourne, “I had better leave you.”
“Oh, no; come on!” urged Miss Daisy Miller.
“I’m afraid your mother doesn’t approve of my walking with you.”
Miss Miller gave him a serious glance. “It isn’t for me; it’s for
you—that is, it’s for her. Well, I don’t know who it’s for! But mother
doesn’t like any of my gentlemen friends. She’s right down timid.
She always makes a fuss if I introduce a gentleman. But I do intro-
duce them—almost always. If I didn’t introduce my gentlemen
friends to Mother,” the young girl added in her little soft, flat mono-
tone, “I shouldn’t think I was natural.”
“To introduce me,” said Winterbourne, “you must know my
name.” And he proceeded to pronounce it.
“Oh, dear, I can’t say all that!” said his companion with a laugh.
But by this time they had come up to Mrs. Miller, who, as they
drew near, walked to the parapet of the garden and leaned upon it,
looking intently at the lake and turning her back to them. “Mother!”
said the young girl in a tone of decision. Upon this the elder lady
turned round. “Mr. Winterbourne,” said Miss Daisy Miller, intro-
ducing the young man very frankly and prettily. “Common,” she
was, as Mrs. Costello had pronounced her; yet it was a wonder to
Winterbourne that, with her commonness, she had a singularly deli-
cate grace.
Her mother was a small, spare, light person, with a wandering
eye, a very exiguous nose, and a large forehead, decorated with a
certain amount of thin, much frizzled hair. Like her daughter, Mrs.
Miller was dressed with extreme elegance; she had enormous dia-
monds in her ears. So far as Winterbourne could observe, she gave
him no greeting—she certainly was not looking at him. Daisy was
near her, pulling her shawl straight. “What are you doing, poking
round here?” this young lady inquired, but by no means with that
harshness of accent which her choice of words may imply.
“I don’t know,” said her mother, turning toward the lake again.
26
“I shouldn’t think you’d want that shawl!” Daisy exclaimed.
“Well I do!” her mother answered with a little laugh.
“Did you get Randolph to go to bed?” asked the young girl.
“No; I couldn’t induce him,” said Mrs. Miller very gently. “He
wants to talk to the waiter. He likes to talk to that waiter.”
I was telling Mr. Winterbourne,” the young girl went on; and to
the young man’s ear her tone might have indicated that she had
been uttering his name all her life.
“Oh, yes!” said Winterbourne; “I have the pleasure of knowing
your son.”
Randolph’s mamma was silent; she turned her attention to the
lake. But at last she spoke. “Well, I don’t see how he lives!”
“Anyhow, it isn’t so bad as it was at Dover,” said Daisy Miller.
“And what occurred at Dover?” Winterbourne asked.
“He wouldn’t go to bed at all. I guess he sat up all night in the
public parlor. He wasn’t in bed at twelve o’clock: I know that.”
“It was half-past twelve,” declared Mrs. Miller with mild empha-
sis.
“Does he sleep much during the day?” Winterbourne demanded.
“I guess he doesn’t sleep much,” Daisy rejoined.
“I wish he would!” said her mother. “It seems as if he couldn’t.”
“I think he’s real tiresome,” Daisy pursued.
Then, for some moments, there was silence. “Well, Daisy Miller,”
said the elder lady, presently, “I shouldn’t think you’d want to talk
against your own brother!”
“Well, he istiresome, Mother,” said Daisy, quite without the as-
perity of a retort.
“He’s only nine,” urged Mrs. Miller.
“Well, he wouldn’t go to that castle,” said the young girl. “I’m
going there with Mr. Winterbourne.”
To this announcement, very placidly made, Daisy’s mamma of-
fered no response. Winterbourne took for granted that she deeply
Daisy Miller
27
Henry James
disapproved of the projected excursion; but he said to himself that
she was a simple, easily managed person, and that a few deferential
protestations would take the edge from her displeasure. “Yes,” he
began; “your daughter has kindly allowed me the honor of being
her guide.”
Mrs. Miller’s wandering eyes attached themselves, with a sort of
appealing air, to Daisy, who, however, strolled a few steps farther,
gently humming to herself. “I presume you will go in the cars,” said
her mother.
“Yes, or in the boat,” said Winterbourne.
“Well, of course, I don’t know,” Mrs. Miller rejoined. “I have never
been to that castle.”
“It is a pity you shouldn’t go,” said Winterbourne, beginning to
feel reassured as to her opposition. And yet he was quite prepared to
find that, as a matter of course, she meant to accompany her daugh-
ter.
“We’ve been thinking ever so much about going,” she pursued;
“but it seems as if we couldn’t. Of course Daisy—she wants to go
round. But there’s a lady here—I don’t know her name—she says
she shouldn’t think we’d want to go to see castles here; she should
think we’d want to wait till we got to Italy. It seems as if there would
be so many there,” continued Mrs. Miller with an air of increasing
confidence. “Of course we only want to see the principal ones. We
visited several in England,” she presently added.
“Ah yes! in England there are beautiful castles,” said Winter-
bourne. “ But Chillon here, is very well worth seeing.”
“Well, if Daisy feels up to it—” said Mrs. Miller, in a tone im-
pregnated with a sense of the magnitude of the enterprise. “It seems
as if there was nothing she wouldn’t undertake.”
“Oh, I think she’ll enjoy it!” Winterbourne declared. And he de-
sired more and more to make it a certainty that he was to have the
privilege of a tete-a-tete with the young lady, who was still strolling
28
along in front of them, softly vocalizing. “You are not disposed,
madam,” he inquired, “to undertake it yourself?”
Daisy’s mother looked at him an instant askance, and then walked
forward in silence. Then—”I guess she had better go alone,” she
said simply. Winterbourne observed to himself that this was a very
different type of maternity from that of the vigilant matrons who
massed themselves in the forefront of social intercourse in the dark
old city at the other end of the lake. But his meditations were inter-
rupted by hearing his name very distinctly pronounced by Mrs.
Miller’s unprotected daughter.
“Mr. Winterbourne!” murmured Daisy.
“Mademoiselle!” said the young man.
“Don’t you want to take me out in a boat?”
“At present?” he asked.
“Of course!” said Daisy.
“Well, Annie Miller!” exclaimed her mother.
“I beg you, madam, to let her go,” said Winterbourne ardently; for
he had never yet enjoyed the sensation of guiding through the sum-
mer starlight a skiff freighted with a fresh and beautiful young girl.
“I shouldn’t think she’d want to,” said her mother. “I should think
she’d rather go indoors.”
“I’m sure Mr. Winterbourne wants to take me,” Daisy declared.
“He’s so awfully devoted!”
“I will row you over to Chillon in the starlight.”
“I don’t believe it!” said Daisy.
“Well!” ejaculated the elder lady again.
“You haven’t spoken to me for half an hour,” her daughter went on.
“I have been having some very pleasant conversation with your
mother,” said Winterbourne.
“Well, I want you to take me out in a boat!” Daisy repeated. They
had all stopped, and she had turned round and was looking at Win-
terbourne. Her face wore a charming smile, her pretty eyes were
Daisy Miller
29
Henry James
gleaming, she was swinging her great fan about. No; it’s impossible
to be prettier than that, thought Winterbourne.
“There are half a dozen boats moored at that landing place,” he
said, pointing to certain steps which descended from the garden to
the lake. “If you will do me the honor to accept my arm, we will go
and select one of them.”
Daisy stood there smiling; she threw back her head and gave a
little, light laugh. “I like a gentleman to be formal!” she declared.
“I assure you it’s a formal offer.”
“I was bound I would make you say something,” Daisy went on.
“You see, it’s not very difficult,” said Winterbourne. “But I am
afraid you are chaffing me.”
“I think not, sir,” remarked Mrs. Miller very gently.
“Do, then, let me give you a row,” he said to the young girl.
“It’s quite lovely, the way you say that!” cried Daisy.
“It will be still more lovely to do it.”
“Yes, it would be lovely!” said Daisy. But she made no movement to
accompany him; she only stood there laughing.
“I should think you had better find out what time it is,” inter-
posed her mother.
“It is eleven o’clock, madam,” said a voice, with a foreign accent,
out of the neighboring darkness; and Winterbourne, turning, per-
ceived the florid personage who was in attendance upon the two
ladies. He had apparently just approached.
“Oh, Eugenio,” said Daisy, “I am going out in a boat!”
Eugenio bowed. “At eleven o’clock, mademoiselle?”
“I am going with Mr. Winterbourne—this very minute.”
“Do tell her she can’t,” said Mrs. Miller to the courier.
“I think you had better not go out in a boat, mademoiselle,”
Eugenio declared.
Winterbourne wished to Heaven this pretty girl were not so fa-
miliar with her courier; but he said nothing.
30
“I suppose you don’t think it’s proper!” Daisy exclaimed. “Eugenio
doesn’t think anything’s proper.”
“I am at your service,” said Winterbourne.
“Does mademoiselle propose to go alone?” asked Eugenio of Mrs.
Miller.
“Oh, no; with this gentleman!” answered Daisy’s mamma.
The courier looked for a moment at Winterbourne—the latter
thought he was smiling—and then, solemnly, with a bow, “As ma-
demoiselle pleases!” he said.
“Oh, I hoped you would make a fuss!” said Daisy. “I don’t care to
go now.”
“I myself shall make a fuss if you don’t go,” said Winterbourne.
“That’s all I want—a little fuss!” And the young girl began to
laugh again.
“Mr. Randolph has gone to bed!” the courier announced frigidly.
“Oh, Daisy; now we can go!” said Mrs. Miller.
Daisy turned away from Winterbourne, looking at him, smiling
and fanning herself. “Good night,” she said; “I hope you are disap-
pointed, or disgusted, or something!”
He looked at her, taking the hand she offered him. “I am puzzled,”
he answered.
“Well, I hope it won’t keep you awake!” she said very smartly;
and, under the escort of the privileged Eugenio, the two ladies passed
toward the house.
Winterbourne stood looking after them; he was indeed puzzled.
He lingered beside the lake for a quarter of an hour, turning over
the mystery of the young girl’s sudden familiarities and caprices.
But the only very definite conclusion he came to was that he should
enjoy deucedly “going off ” with her somewhere.
Two days afterward he went off with her to the Castle of Chillon.
He waited for her in the large hall of the hotel, where the couriers,
the servants, the foreign tourists, were lounging about and staring.
Daisy Miller
31
Henry James
It was not the place he should have chosen, but she had appointed
it. She came tripping downstairs, buttoning her long gloves, squeez-
ing her folded parasol against her pretty figure, dressed in the per-
fection of a soberly elegant traveling costume. Winterbourne was a
man of imagination and, as our ancestors used to say, sensibility; as
he looked at her dress and, on the great staircase, her little rapid,
confiding step, he felt as if there were something romantic going
forward. He could have believed he was going to elope with her. He
passed out with her among all the idle people that were assembled
there; they were all looking at her very hard; she had begun to chat-
ter as soon as she joined him. Winterbourne’s preference had been
that they should be conveyed to Chillon in a carriage; but she ex-
pressed a lively wish to go in the little steamer; she declared that she
had a passion for steamboats. There was always such a lovely breeze
upon the water, and you saw such lots of people. The sail was not
long, but Winterbourne’s companion found time to say a great many
things. To the young man himself their little excursion was so much
of an escapade—an adventure—that, even allowing for her habitual
sense of freedom, he had some expectation of seeing her regard it in
the same way. But it must be confessed that, in this particular, he
was disappointed. Daisy Miller was extremely animated, she was in
charming spirits; but she was apparently not at all excited; she was
not fluttered; she avoided neither his eyes nor those of anyone else;
she blushed neither when she looked at him nor when she felt that
people were looking at her. People continued to look at her a great
deal, and Winterbourne took much satisfaction in his pretty
companion’s distinguished air. He had been a little afraid that she
would talk loud, laugh overmuch, and even, perhaps, desire to move
about the boat a good deal. But he quite forgot his fears; he sat
smiling, with his eyes upon her face, while, without moving from
her place, she delivered herself of a great number of original reflec-
tions. It was the most charming garrulity he had ever heard. he had
32
assented to the idea that she was “common”; but was she so, after
all, or was he simply getting used to her commonness?Her conver-
sation was chiefly of what metaphysicians term the objective cast,
but every now and then it took a subjective turn.
“What on earth are you so grave about?” she suddenly demanded,
fixing her agreeable eyes upon Winterbourne’s.
“Am I grave?” he asked. “I had an idea I was grinning from ear to
ear.”
“You look as if you were taking me to a funeral. If that’s a grin,
your ears are very near together.”
“Should you like me to dance a hornpipe on the deck?”
“Pray do, and I’ll carry round your hat. It will pay the expenses of
our journey.”
“I never was better pleased in my life,” murmured Winterbourne.
She looked at him a moment and then burst into a little laugh. “I
like to make you say those things! You’re a queer mixture!”
In the castle, after they had landed, the subjective element decid-
edly prevailed. Daisy tripped about the vaulted chambers, rustled
her skirts in the corkscrew staircases, flirted back with a pretty little
cry and a shudder from the edge of the oubliettes, and turned a
singularly well-shaped ear to everything that Winterbourne told her
about the place. But he saw that she cared very little for feudal an-
tiquities and that the dusky traditions of Chillon made but a slight
impression upon her. They had the good fortune to have been able
to walk about without other companionship than that of the custo-
dian; and Winterbourne arranged with this functionary that they
should not be hurried—that they should linger and pause wherever
they chose. The custodian interpreted the bargain generously—
Winterbourne, on his side, had been generous—and ended by leav-
ing them quite to themselves. Miss Miller’s observations were not
remarkable for logical consistency; for anything she wanted to say
she was sure to find a pretext. She found a great many pretexts in
Daisy Miller
33
Henry James
the rugged embrasures of Chillon for asking Winterbourne sudden
questions about himself—his family, his previous history, his tastes,
his habits, his intentions—and for supplying information upon cor-
responding points in her own personality. Of her own tastes, habits,
and intentions Miss Miller was prepared to give the most definite,
and indeed the most favorable account.
“Well, I hope you know enough!” she said to her companion,
after he had told her the history of the unhappy Bonivard. “I never
saw a man that knew so much!” The history of Bonivard had evi-
dently, as they say, gone into one ear and out of the other. But Daisy
went on to say that she wished Winterbourne would travel with
them and “go round” with them; they might know something, in
that case. “Don’t you want to come and teach Randolph?” she asked.
Winterbourne said that nothing could possibly please him so much,
but that he unfortunately other occupations. “Other occupations?I
don’t believe it!” said Miss Daisy. “What do you mean?You are not
in business.” The young man admitted that he was not in business;
but he had engagements which, even within a day or two, would
force him to go back to Geneva. “Oh, bother!” she said; “I don’t
believe it!” and she began to talk about something else. But a few
moments later, when he was pointing out to her the pretty design of
an antique fireplace, she broke out irrelevantly, “You don’t mean to
say you are going back to Geneva?”
“It is a melancholy fact that I shall have to return to Geneva to-
morrow.”
“Well, Mr. Winterbourne,” said Daisy, “I think you’re horrid!”
“Oh, don’t say such dreadful things!” said Winterbourne—”just
at the last!”
“The last!” cried the young girl; “I call it the first. I have half a
mind to leave you here and go straight back to the hotel alone.”
And for the next ten minutes she did nothing but call him horrid.
Poor Winterbourne was fairly bewildered; no young lady had as yet
34
done him the honor to be so agitated by the announcement of his
movements. His companion, after this, ceased to pay any attention
to the curiosities of Chillon or the beauties of the lake; she opened
fire upon the mysterious charmer in Geneva whom she appeared to
have instantly taken it for granted that he was hurrying back to see.
How did Miss Daisy Miller know that there was a charmer in
Geneva?Winterbourne, who denied the existence of such a person,
was quite unable to discover, and he was divided between amaze-
ment at the rapidity of her induction and amusement at the frank-
ness of her persiflage. She seemed to him, in all this, an extraordi-
nary mixture of innocence and crudity. “Does she never allow you
more than three days at a time?” asked Daisy ironically. “Doesn’t
she give you a vacation in summer?There’s no one so hard worked
but they can get leave to go off somewhere at this season. I suppose,
if you stay another day, she’ll come after you in the boat. Do wait
over till Friday, and I will go down to the landing to see her arrive!”
Winterbourne began to think he had been wrong to feel disappointed
in the temper in which the young lady had embarked. If he had
missed the personal accent, the personal accent was now making its
appearance. It sounded very distinctly, at last, in her telling him she
would stop “teasing” him if he would promise her solemnly to come
down to Rome in the winter.
“That’s not a difficult promise to make,” said Winterbourne. “My
aunt has taken an apartment in Rome for the winter and has al-
ready asked me to come and see her.”
“I don’t want you to come for your aunt,” said Daisy; “I want you
to come for me.” And this was the only allusion that the young man
was ever to hear her make to his invidious kinswoman. He declared
that, at any rate, he would certainly come. After this Daisy stopped
teasing. Winterbourne took a carriage, and they drove back to Vevey
in the dusk; the young girl was very quiet.
In the evening Winterbourne mentioned to Mrs. Costello that he
Daisy Miller
35
Henry James
had spent the afternoon at Chillon with Miss Daisy Miller.
“The Americans—of the courier?” asked this lady.
“Ah, happily,” said Winterbourne, “the courier stayed at home.”
“She went with you all alone?”
“All alone.”
Mrs. Costello sniffed a little at her smelling bottle. “And that,”
she exclaimed, “is the young person whom you wanted me to know!”
36
PART II
WINTERBOURNE, who had returned to Geneva the day after his excur-
sion to Chillon, went to Rome toward the end of January. His aunt
had been established there for several weeks, and he had received a
couple of letters from her. “Those people you were so devoted to last
summer at Vevey have turned up here, courier and all,” she wrote.
“They seem to have made several acquaintances, but the courier con-
tinues to be the most intime. The young lady, however, is also very
intimate with some third-rate Italians, with whom she rackets about
in a way that makes much talk. Bring me that pretty novel of
Cherbuliez’s—Paule Mere—and don’t come later than the 23rd.”
In the natural course of events, Winterbourne, on arriving in Rome,
would presently have ascertained Mrs. Miller’s address at the Ameri-
can banker’s and have gone to pay his compliments to Miss Daisy.
“After what happened at Vevey, I think I may certainly call upon
them,” he said to Mrs. Costello.
“If, after what happens—at Vevey and everywhere—you desire to
keep up the acquaintance, you are very welcome. Of course a man
may know everyone. Men are welcome to the privilege!”
“Pray what is it that happens—here, for instance?” Winterbourne
demanded.
“The girl goes about alone with her foreigners. As to what hap-
pens further, you must apply elsewhere for information. She has
picked up half a dozen of the regular Roman fortune hunters, and
she takes them about to people’s houses. When she comes to a party
Daisy Miller
37
Henry James
she brings with her a gentleman with a good deal of manner and a
wonderful mustache.”
“And where is the mother?”
“I haven’t the least idea. They are very dreadful people.”
Winterbourne meditated a moment. “ They are very ignorant—
very innocent only. Depend upon it they are not bad.”
“They are hopelessly vulgar,” said Mrs. Costello. “Whether or no
being hopelessly vulgar is being ‘bad’ is a question for the metaphy-
sicians. They are bad enough to dislike, at any rate; and for this
short life that is quite enough.”
The news that Daisy Miller was surrounded by half a dozen won-
derful mustaches checked Winterbourne’s impulse to go straight-
way to see her. He had, perhaps, not definitely flattered himself that
he had made an ineffaceable impression upon her heart, but he was
annoyed at hearing of a state of affairs so little in harmony with an
image that had lately flitted in and out of his own meditations; the
image of a very pretty girl looking out of an old Roman window
and asking herself urgently when Mr. Winterbourne would arrive.
If, however, he determined to wait a little before reminding Miss
Miller of his claims to her consideration, he went very soon to call
upon two or three other friends. One of these friends was an Ameri-
can lady who had spent several winters at Geneva, where she had
placed her children at school. She was a very accomplished woman,
and she lived in the Via Gregoriana. Winterbourne found her in a
little crimson drawing room on a third floor; the room was filled
with southern sunshine. He had not been there ten minutes when
the servant came in, announcing “Madame Mila!” This announce-
ment was presently followed by the entrance of little Randolph Miller,
who stopped in the middle of the room and stood staring at Win-
terbourne. An instant later his pretty sister crossed the threshold;
and then, after a considerable interval, Mrs. Miller slowly advanced.
“I know you!” said Randolph.
38
“I’m sure you know a great many things,” exclaimed Winterbourne,
taking him by the hand. “How is your education coming on?”
Daisy was exchanging greetings very prettily with her hostess, but
when she heard Winterbourne’s voice she quickly turned her head.
“Well, I declare!” she said.
“I told you I should come, you know,” Winterbourne rejoined,
smiling.
“Well, I didn’t believe it,” said Miss Daisy.
“I am much obliged to you,” laughed the young man.
“You might have come to see me!” said Daisy.
“I arrived only yesterday.”
“I don’t believe tte that!” the young girl declared.
Winterbourne turned with a protesting smile to her mother, but
this lady evaded his glance, and, seating herself, fixed her eyes upon
her son. “We’ve got a bigger place than this,” said Randolph. “It’s all
gold on the walls.”
Mrs. Miller turned uneasily in her chair. “I told you if I were to bring
you, you would say something!” she murmured.
“I told you!” Randolph exclaimed. “I tell you, sir!” he added jo-
cosely, giving Winterbourne a thump on the knee. “It isbigger, too!”
Daisy had entered upon a lively conversation with her hostess;
Winterbourne judged it becoming to address a few words to her
mother. “I hope you have been well since we parted at Vevey,” he
said.
Mrs. Miller now certainly looked at him—at his chin. “Not very
well, sir,” she answered.
“She’s got the dyspepsia,” said Randolph. “I’ve got it too. Father’s
got it. I’ve got it most!”
This announcement, instead of embarrassing Mrs. Miller, seemed
to relieve her. “I suffer from the liver,” she said. “I think it’s this
climate; it’s less bracing than Schenectady, especially in the winter
season. I don’t know whether you know we reside at Schenectady. I
Daisy Miller
39
Henry James
was saying to Daisy that I certainly hadn’t found any one like Dr.
Davis, and I didn’t believe I should. Oh, at Schenectady he stands
first; they think everything of him. He has so much to do, and yet
there was nothing he wouldn’t do for me. He said he never saw
anything like my dyspepsia, but he was bound to cure it. I’m sure
there was nothing he wouldn’t try. He was just going to try some-
thing new when we came off. Mr. Miller wanted Daisy to see Eu-
rope for herself. But I wrote to Mr. Miller that it seems as if I couldn’t
get on without Dr. Davis. At Schenectady he stands at the very top;
and there’s a great deal of sickness there, too. It affects my sleep.”
Winterbourne had a good deal of pathological gossip with Dr. Davis’s
patient, during which Daisy chattered unremittingly to her own com-
panion. The young man asked Mrs. Miller how she was pleased with
Rome. “Well, I must say I am disappointed,” she answered. “We had
heard so much about it; I suppose we had heard too much. But we
couldn’t help that. We had been led to expect something different.”
“Ah, wait a little, and you will become very fond of it,” said Win-
terbourne.
“I hate it worse and worse every day!” cried Randolph.
“You are like the infant Hannibal,” said Winterbourne.
“No, I ain’t!” Randolph declared at a venture.
“You are not much like an infant,” said his mother. “But we have
seen places,” she resumed, “that I should put a long way before
Rome.” And in reply to Winterbourne’s interrogation, “There’s
Zurich,” she concluded, “I think Zurich is lovely; and we hadn’t
heard half so much about it.”
“ The best place we’ve seen is the City of Richmond!” said
Randolph.
“He means the ship,” his mother explained. “We crossed in that
ship. Randolph had a good time on the City of Richmond.”
“It’s the best place I’ve seen,” the child repeated. “Only it was
turned the wrong way.”
40
“Well, we’ve got to turn the right way some time,” said Mrs. Miller
with a little laugh. Winterbourne expressed the hope that her daugh-
ter at least found some gratification in Rome, and she declared that
Daisy was quite carried away. “It’s on account of the society—the
society’s splendid. She goes round everywhere; she has made a great
number of acquaintances. Of course she goes round more than I
do. I must say they have been very sociable; they have taken her
right in. And then she knows a great many gentlemen. Oh, she
thinks there’s nothing like Rome. Of course, it’s a great deal pleasanter
for a young lady if she knows plenty of gentlemen.”
By this time Daisy had turned her attention again to Winter-
bourne. “I’ve been telling Mrs. Walker how mean you were!” the
young girl announced.
“And what is the evidence you have offered?” asked Winterbourne,
rather annoyed at Miss Miller’s want of appreciation of the zeal of an
admirer who on his way down to Rome had stopped neither at Bolo-
gna nor at Florence, simply because of a certain sentimental impa-
tience. He remembered that a cynical compatriot had once told him
that American women—the pretty ones, and this gave a largeness to
the axiom—were at once the most exacting in the world and the least
endowed with a sense of indebtedness.
“Why, you were awfully mean at Vevey,” said Daisy. “You wouldn’t
do anything. You wouldn’t stay there when I asked you.”
“My dearest young lady,” cried Winterbourne, with eloquence,
“have I come all the way to Rome to encounter your reproaches?”
“Just hear him say that!” said Daisy to her hostess, giving a twist
to a bow on this lady’s dress. “Did you ever hear anything so quaint?”
“So quaint, my dear?” murmured Mrs. Walker in the tone of a
partisan of Winterbourne.
“Well, I don’t know,” said Daisy, fingering Mrs. Walker’s ribbons.
“Mrs. Walker, I want to tell you something.”
“Mother-r,” interposed Randolph, with his rough ends to his
Daisy Miller
41
Henry James
words, “I tell you you’ve got to go. Eugenio’ll raise—something!”
“I’m not afraid of Eugenio,” said Daisy with a toss of her head. “Look
here, Mrs. Walker,” she went on, “you know I’m coming to your party.”
“I am delighted to hear it.”
“I’ve got a lovely dress!”
“I am very sure of that.”
“But I want to ask a favor—permission to bring a friend.”
“I shall be happy to see any of your friends,” said Mrs. Walker,
turning with a smile to Mrs. Miller.
“Oh, they are not my friends,” answered Daisy’s mamma, smiling
shyly in her own fashion. “I never spoke to them.”
“It’s an intimate friend of mine—Mr. Giovanelli,” said Daisy with-
out a tremor in her clear little voice or a shadow on her brilliant
little face.
Mrs. Walker was silent a moment; she gave a rapid glance at Win-
terbourne. “I shall be glad to see Mr. Giovanelli,” she then said.
“He’s an Italian,” Daisy pursued with the prettiest serenity. “He’s
a great friend of mine; he’s the handsomest man in the world—
except Mr. Winterbourne! He knows plenty of Italians, but he wants
to know some Americans. He thinks ever so much of Americans.
He’s tremendously clever. He’s perfectly lovely!”
It was settled that this brilliant personage should be brought to
Mrs. Walker’s party, and then Mrs. Miller prepared to take her leave.
“I guess we’ll go back to the hotel,” she said.
“You may go back to the hotel, Mother, but I’m going to take a
walk,” said Daisy.
“She’s going to walk with Mr. Giovanelli,” Randolph proclaimed.
“I am going to the Pincio,” said Daisy, smiling.
“Alone, my dear—at this hour?” Mrs. Walker asked. The after-
noon was drawing to a close—it was the hour for the throng of
carriages and of contemplative pedestrians. “I don’t think it’s safe,
my dear,” said Mrs. Walker.
42
“Neither do I,” subjoined Mrs. Miller. “You’ll get the fever, as sure as
you live. Remember what Dr. Davis told you!”
“Give her some medicine before she goes,” said Randolph.
The company had risen to its feet; Daisy, still showing her pretty
teeth, bent over and kissed her hostess. “Mrs. Walker, you are too
perfect,” she said. “I’m not going alone; I am going to meet a friend.”
“Your friend won’t keep you from getting the fever,” Mrs. Miller
observed.
“Is it Mr. Giovanelli?” asked the hostess.
Winterbourne was watching the young girl; at this question his
attention quickened. She stood there, smiling and smoothing her
bonnet ribbons; she glanced at Winterbourne. Then, while she
glanced and smiled, she answered, without a shade of hesitation,
“Mr. Giovanelli—the beautiful Giovanelli.”
“My dear young friend,” said Mrs. Walker, taking her hand plead-
ingly, “don’t walk off to the Pincio at this hour to meet a beautiful
Italian.”
“Well, he speaks English,” said Mrs. Miller.
“Gracious me!” Daisy exclaimed, “I don’t to do anything improper.
There’s an easy way to settle it.” She continued to glance at Winter-
bourne. “The Pincio is only a hundred yards distant; and if Mr.
Winterbourne were as polite as he pretends, he would offer to walk
with me!”
Winterbourne’s politeness hastened to affirm itself, and the young
girl gave him gracious leave to accompany her. They passed down-
stairs before her mother, and at the door Winterbourne perceived
Mrs. Miller’s carriage drawn up, with the ornamental courier whose
acquaintance he had made at Vevey seated within. “Goodbye,
Eugenio!” cried Daisy; “I’m going to take a walk.” The distance
from the Via Gregoriana to the beautiful garden at the other end of
the Pincian Hill is, in fact, rapidly traversed. As the day was splen-
did, however, and the concourse of vehicles, walkers, and loungers
Daisy Miller
43
Henry James
numerous, the young Americans found their progress much de-
layed. This fact was highly agreeable to Winterbourne, in spite of
his consciousness of his singular situation. The slow-moving, idly
gazing Roman crowd bestowed much attention upon the extremely
pretty young foreign lady who was passing through it upon his
arm; and he wondered what on earth had been in Daisy’s mind
when she proposed to expose herself, unattended, to its apprecia-
tion. His own mission, to her sense, apparently, was to consign
her to the hands of Mr. Giovanelli; but Winterbourne, at once
annoyed and gratified, resolved that he would do no such thing.
“Why haven’t you been to see me?” asked Daisy. “You can’t get
out of that.”
“I have had the honor of telling you that I have only just stepped
out of the train.”
“You must have stayed in the train a good while after it stopped!”
cried the young girl with her little laugh. “I suppose you were asleep.
You have had time to go to see Mrs. Walker.”
“I knew Mrs. Walker—” Winterbourne began to explain.
“I know where you knew her. You knew her at Geneva. She told
me so. Well, you knew me at Vevey. That’s just as good. So you
ought to have come.” She asked him no other question than this;
she began to prattle about her own affairs. “We’ve got splendid rooms
at the hotel; Eugenio says they’re the best rooms in Rome. We are
going to stay all winter, if we don’t die of the fever; and I guess we’ll
stay then. It’s a great deal nicer than I thought; I thought it would
be fearfully quiet; I was sure it would be awfully poky. I was sure we
should be going round all the time with one of those dreadful old
men that explain about the pictures and things. But we only had
about a week of that, and now I’m enjoying myself. I know ever so
many people, and they are all so charming. The society’s extremely
select. There are all kinds—English, and Germans, and Italians. I
think I like the English best. I like their style of conversation. But
44
there are some lovely Americans. I never saw anything so hospi-
table. There’s something or other every day. There’s not much danc-
ing; but I must say I never thought dancing was everything. I was
always fond of conversation. I guess I shall have plenty at Mrs.
Walker’s, her rooms are so small.” When they had passed the gate of
the Pincian Gardens, Miss Miller began to wonder where Mr.
Giovanelli might be. “We had better go straight to that place in
front,” she said, “where you look at the view.”
“I certainly shall not help you to find him,” Winterbourne de-
clared.
“Then I shall find him without you,” cried Miss Daisy.
“You certainly won’t leave me!” cried Winterbourne.
She burst into her little laugh. “Are you afraid you’ll get lost—or
run over?But there’s Giovanelli, leaning against that tree. He’s star-
ing at the women in the carriages: did you ever see anything so
cool?”
Winterbourne perceived at some distance a little man standing
with folded arms nursing his cane. He had a handsome face, an
artfully poised hat, a glass in one eye, and a nosegay in his button-
hole. Winterbourne looked at him a moment and then said, “Do
you mean to speak to that man?”
“Do I mean to speak to him?Why, you don’t suppose I mean to
communicate by signs?”
“Pray understand, then,” said Winterbourne, “that I intend to
remain with you.”
Daisy stopped and looked at him, without a sign of troubled con-
sciousness in her face, with nothing but the presence of her charm-
ing eyes and her happy dimples. “Well, she’s a cool one!” thought
the young man.
“I don’t like the way you say that,” said Daisy. “It’s too imperious.”
“I beg your pardon if I say it wrong. The main point is to give you
an idea of my meaning.”
Daisy Miller
45
Henry James
The young girl looked at him more gravely, but with eyes that were
prettier than ever. “I have never allowed a gentleman to dictate to me,
or to interfere with anything I do.”
“I think you have made a mistake,” said Winterbourne. “You should
sometimes listen to a gentleman—the right one.”
Daisy began to laugh again. “I do nothing but listen to gentle-
men!” she exclaimed. “Tell me if Mr. Giovanelli is the right one?”
The gentleman with the nosegay in his bosom had now perceived
our two friends, and was approaching the young girl with obsequi-
ous rapidity. He bowed to Winterbourne as well as to the latter’s
companion; he had a brilliant smile, an intelligent eye; Winterbourne
thought him not a bad-looking fellow. But he nevertheless said to
Daisy, “No, he’s not the right one.”
Daisy evidently had a natural talent for performing introductions;
she mentioned the name of each of her companions to the other.
She strolled alone with one of them on each side of her; Mr.
Giovanelli, who spoke English very cleverly—Winterbourne after-
ward learned that he had practiced the idiom upon a great many
American heiresses—addressed her a great deal of very polite non-
sense; he was extremely urbane, and the young American, who said
nothing, reflected upon that profundity of Italian cleverness which
enables people to appear more gracious in proportion as they are
more acutely disappointed. Giovanelli, of course, had counted upon
something more intimate; he had not bargained for a party of three.
But he kept his temper in a manner which suggested far-stretching
intentions. Winterbourne flattered himself that he had taken his
measure. “He is not a gentleman,” said the young American; “he is
only a clever imitation of one. He is a music master, or a penny-a-
liner, or a third-rate artist. D__n his good looks!” Mr. Giovanelli
had certainly a very pretty face; but Winterbourne felt a superior
indignation at his own lovely fellow countrywoman’s not knowing
the difference between a spurious gentleman and a real one.
46
Giovanelli chattered and jested and made himself wonderfully agree-
able. It was true that, if he was an imitation, the imitation was bril-
liant. “Nevertheless,” Winterbourne said to himself, “a nice girl ought
to know!” And then he came back to the question whether this was,
in fact, a nice girl. Would a nice girl, even allowing for her being a
little American flirt, make a rendezvous with a presumably low-
lived foreigner?The rendezvous in this case, indeed, had been in
broad daylight and in the most crowded corner of Rome, but was it
not impossible to regard the choice of these circumstances as a proof
of extreme cynicism?Singular though it may seem, Winterbourne
was vexed that the young girl, in joining her amoroso, should not
appear more impatient of his own company, and he was vexed be-
cause of his inclination. It was impossible to regard her as a per-
fectly well-conducted young lady; she was wanting in a certain in-
dispensable delicacy. It would therefore simplify matters greatly to
be able to treat her as the object of one of those sentiments which
are called by romancers “lawless passions.” That she should seem to
wish to get rid of him would help him to think more lightly of her,
and to be able to think more lightly of her would make her much
less perplexing. But Daisy, on this occasion, continued to present
herself as an inscrutable combination of audacity and innocence.
She had been walking some quarter of an hour, attended by her
two cavaliers, and responding in a tone of very childish gaiety, as it
seemed to Winterbourne, to the pretty speeches of Mr. Giovanelli,
when a carriage that had detached itself from the revolving train
drew up beside the path. At the same moment Winterbourne per-
ceived that his friend Mrs. Walker—the lady whose house he had
lately left—was seated in the vehicle and was beckoning to him.
Leaving Miss Miller’s side, he hastened to obey her summons. Mrs.
Walker was flushed; she wore an excited air. “It is really too dread-
ful,” she said. “That girl must not do this sort of thing. She must
not walk here with you two men. Fifty people have noticed her.”
Daisy Miller
47
Henry James
Winterbourne raised his eyebrows. “I think it’s a pity to make too
much fuss about it.”
“It’s a pity to let the girl ruin herself!”
“She is very innocent,” said Winterbourne.
“She’s very crazy!” cried Mrs. Walker. “Did you ever see anything so
imbecile as her mother?After you had all left me just now, I could not
sit still for thinking of it. It seemed too pitiful, not even to attempt to
save her. I ordered the carriage and put on my bonnet, and came here
as quickly as possible. Thank Heaven I have found you!”
“What do you propose to do with us?” asked Winterbourne, smiling.
“To ask her to get in, to drive her about here for half an hour, so
that the world may see she is not running absolutely wild, and then
to take her safely home.”
“I don’t think it’s a very happy thought,” said Winterbourne; “but
you can try.”
Mrs. Walker tried. The young man went in pursuit of Miss Miller,
who had simply nodded and smiled at his interlocutor in the car-
riage and had gone her way with her companion. Daisy, on learning
that Mrs. Walker wished to speak to her, retraced her steps with a
perfect good grace and with Mr. Giovanelli at her side. She declared
that she was delighted to have a chance to present this gentleman to
Mrs. Walker. She immediately achieved the introduction, and de-
clared that she had never in her life seen anything so lovely as Mrs.
Walker’s carriage rug.
“I am glad you admire it,” said this lady, smiling sweetly. “Will
you get in and let me put it over you?”
“Oh, no, thank you,” said Daisy. “I shall admire it much more as
I see you driving round with it.”
“Do get in and drive with me!” said Mrs. Walker.
“That would be charming, but it’s so enchanting just as I am!”
and Daisy gave a brilliant glance at the gentlemen on either side of
her.
48
“It may be enchanting, dear child, but it is not the custom here,”
urged Mrs. Walker, leaning forward in her victoria, with her hands
devoutly clasped.
“Well, it ought to be, then!” said Daisy. “If I didn’t walk I should
expire.”
“You should walk with your mother, dear,” cried the lady from
Geneva, losing patience.
“With my mother dear!” exclaimed the young girl. Winterbourne
saw that she scented interference. “My mother never walked ten
steps in her life. And then, you know,” she added with a laugh, “I
am more than five years old.”
“You are old enough to be more reasonable. You are old enough,
dear Miss Miller, to be talked about.”
Daisy looked at Mrs. Walker, smiling intensely. “Talked about?
What do you mean?”
“Come into my carriage, and I will tell you.”
Daisy turned her quickened glance again from one of the gentle-
men beside her to the other. Mr. Giovanelli was bowing to and
fro, rubbing down his gloves and laughing very agreeably; Win-
terbourne thought it a most unpleasant scene. “I don’t think I
want to know what you mean,” said Daisy presently. “I don’t think
I should like it.”
Winterbourne wished that Mrs. Walker would tuck in her car-
riage rug and drive away, but this lady did not enjoy being defied, as
she afterward told him. “Should you prefer being thought a very
reckless girl?” she demanded.
“Gracious!” exclaimed Daisy. She looked again at Mr. Giovanelli,
then she turned to Winterbourne. There was a little pink flush in
her cheek; she was tremendously pretty. “Does Mr. Winterbourne
think,” she asked slowly, smiling, throwing back her head, and glanc-
ing at him from head to foot, “that, to save my reputation, I ought
to get into the carriage?”
Daisy Miller
49
Henry James
Winterbourne colored; for an instant he hesitated greatly. It seemed
so strange to hear her speak that way of her “reputation.” But he
himself, in fact, must speak in accordance with gallantry. The finest
gallantry, here, was simply to tell her the truth; and the truth, for
Winterbourne, as the few indications I have been able to give have
made him known to the reader, was that Daisy Miller should take
Mrs. Walker’s advice. He looked at her exquisite prettiness, and then
he said, very gently, “I think you should get into the carriage.”
Daisy gave a violent laugh. “I never heard anything so stiff! If this is
improper, Mrs. Walker,” she pursued, “then I am all improper, and you
must give me up. Goodbye; I hope you’ll have a lovely ride!” and, with
Mr. Giovanelli, who made a triumphantly obsequious salute, she turned
away.
Mrs. Walker sat looking after her, and there were tears in Mrs.
Walker’s eyes. “Get in here, sir,” she said to Winterbourne, indicat-
ing the place beside her. The young man answered that he felt bound
to accompany Miss Miller, whereupon Mrs. Walker declared that if
he refused her this favor she would never speak to him again. She
was evidently in earnest. Winterbourne overtook Daisy and her com-
panion, and, offering the young girl his hand, told her that Mrs.
Walker had made an imperious claim upon his society. He expected
that in answer she would say something rather free, something to
commit herself still further to that “recklessness” from which Mrs.
Walker had so charitably endeavored to dissuade her. But she only
shook his hand, hardly looking at him, while Mr. Giovanelli bade
him farewell with a too emphatic flourish of the hat.
Winterbourne was not in the best possible humor as he took his
seat in Mrs. Walker’s victoria. “That was not clever of you,” he said
candidly, while the vehicle mingled again with the throng of car-
riages.
“In such a case,” his companion answered, “I don’t wish to be
clever; I wish to be earnest!”
50
“Well, your earnestness has only offended her and put her off.”
“It has happened very well,” said Mrs. Walker. “If she is so per-
fectly determined to compromise herself, the sooner one knows it
the better; one can act accordingly.”
“I suspect she meant no harm,” Winterbourne rejoined.
“So I thought a month ago. But she has been going too far.”
“What has she been doing?”
“Everything that is not done here. Flirting with any man she could
pick up; sitting in corners with mysterious Italians; dancing all the
evening with the same partners; receiving visits at eleven o’clock at
night. Her mother goes away when visitors come.”
“But her brother,” said Winterbourne, laughing, “sits up till mid-
night.”
“He must be edified by what he sees. I’m told that at their hotel
everyone is talking about her, and that a smile goes round among all
the servants when a gentleman comes and asks for Miss Miller.”
“The servants be hanged!” said Winterbourne angrily. “The poor
girl’s only fault,” he presently added, “is that she is very unculti-
vated.”
“She is naturally indelicate,” Mrs. Walker declared.
“Take that example this morning. How long had you known her
at Vevey?”
“A couple of days.”
“Fancy, then, her making it a personal matter that you should
have left the place!”
Winterbourne was silent for some moments; then he said, “I sus-
pect, Mrs. Walker, that you and I have lived too long at Geneva!”
And he added a request that she should inform him with what par-
ticular design she had made him enter her carriage.
“I wished to beg you to cease your relations with Miss Miller—
not to flirt with her—to give her no further opportunity to expose
herself—to let her alone, in short.”
Daisy Miller
51
Henry James
“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” said Winterbourne. “I like her ex-
tremely.”
“All the more reason that you shouldn’t help her to make a scan-
dal.”
“There shall be nothing scandalous in my attentions to her.”
“There certainly will be in the way she takes them. But I have said
what I had on my conscience,” Mrs. Walker pursued. “If you wish
to rejoin the young lady I will put you down. Here, by the way, you
have a chance.”
The carriage was traversing that part of the Pincian Garden that
overhangs the wall of Rome and overlooks the beautiful Villa
Borghese. It is bordered by a large parapet, near which there are
several seats. One of the seats at a distance was occupied by a gentle-
man and a lady, toward whom Mrs. Walker gave a toss of her head.
At the same moment these persons rose and walked toward the para-
pet. Winterbourne had asked the coachman to stop; he now de-
scended from the carriage. His companion looked at him a mo-
ment in silence; then, while he raised his hat, she drove majestically
away. Winterbourne stood there; he had turned his eyes toward Daisy
and her cavalier. They evidently saw no one; they were too deeply
occupied with each other. When they reached the low garden wall,
they stood a moment looking off at the great flat-topped pine clus-
ters of the Villa Borghese; then Giovanelli seated himself, familiarly,
upon the broad ledge of the wall. The western sun in the opposite
sky sent out a brilliant shaft through a couple of cloud bars, where-
upon Daisy’s companion took her parasol out of her hands and
opened it. She came a little nearer, and he held the parasol over her;
then, still holding it, he let it rest upon her shoulder, so that both of
their heads were hidden from Winterbourne. This young man lin-
gered a moment, then he began to walk. But he walked—not to-
ward the couple with the parasol; toward the residence of his aunt,
Mrs. Costello.
52
He flattered himself on the following day that there was no smil-
ing among the servants when he, at least, asked for Mrs. Miller at
her hotel. This lady and her daughter, however, were not at home;
and on the next day after, repeating his visit, Winterbourne again
had the misfortune not to find them. Mrs. Walker’s party took place
on the evening of the third day, and, in spite of the frigidity of his
last interview with the hostess, Winterbourne was among the guests.
Mrs. Walker was one of those American ladies who, while residing
abroad, make a point, in their own phrase, of studying European
society, and she had on this occasion collected several specimens of
her diversely born fellow mortals to serve, as it were, as textbooks.
When Winterbourne arrived, Daisy Miller was not there, but in a
few moments he saw her mother come in alone, very shyly and
ruefully. Mrs. Miller’s hair above her exposed-looking temples was
more frizzled than ever. As she approached Mrs. Walker, Winter-
bourne also drew near.
“You see, I’ve come all alone,” said poor Mrs. Miller. “I’m so fright-
ened; I don’t know what to do. It’s the first time I’ve ever been to a
party alone, especially in this country. I wanted to bring Randolph
or Eugenio, or someone, but Daisy just pushed me off by myself. I
ain’t used to going round alone.”
“And does not your daughter intend to favor us with her society?”
demanded Mrs. Walker impressively.
“Well, Daisy’s all dressed,” said Mrs. Miller with that accent of
the dispassionate, if not of the philosophic, historian with which
she always recorded the current incidents of her daughter’s career.
“She got dressed on purpose before dinner. But she’s got a friend of
hers there; that gentleman—the Italian—that she wanted to bring.
They’ve got going at the piano; it seems as if they couldn’t leave off.
Mr. Giovanelli sings splendidly. But I guess they’ll come before very
long,” concluded Mrs. Miller hopefully.
“I’m sorry she should come in that way,” said Mrs. Walker.
Daisy Miller
53
Henry James
“Well, I told her that there was no use in her getting dressed be-
fore dinner if she was going to wait three hours,” responded Daisy’s
mamma. “I didn’t see the use of her putting on such a dress as that
to sit round with Mr. Giovanelli.”
“This is most horrible!” said Mrs. Walker, turning away and ad-
dressing herself to Winterbourne. “Elle s’affiche. It’s her revenge for
my having ventured to remonstrate with her. When she comes, I
shall not speak to her.”
Daisy came after eleven o’clock; but she was not, on such an occa-
sion, a young lady to wait to be spoken to. She rustled forward in
radiant loveliness, smiling and chattering, carrying a large bouquet,
and attended by Mr. Giovanelli. Everyone stopped talking and turned
and looked at her. She came straight to Mrs. Walker. “I’m afraid you
thought I never was coming, so I sent mother off to tell you. I wanted
to make Mr. Giovanelli practice some things before he came; you
know he sings beautifully, and I want you to ask him to sing. This is
Mr. Giovanelli; you know I introduced him to you; he’s got the
most lovely voice, and he knows the most charming set of songs. I
made him go over them this evening on purpose; we had the great-
est time at the hotel.” Of all this Daisy delivered herself with the
sweetest, brightest audibleness, looking now at her hostess and now
round the room, while she gave a series of little pats, round her
shoulders, to the edges of her dress. “Is there anyone I know?” she
asked.
“I think every one knows you!” said Mrs. Walker pregnantly, and
she gave a very cursory greeting to Mr. Giovanelli. This gentleman
bore himself gallantly. He smiled and bowed and showed his white
teeth; he curled his mustaches and rolled his eyes and performed all
the proper functions of a handsome Italian at an evening party. He
sang very prettily half a dozen songs, though Mrs. Walker afterward
declared that she had been quite unable to find out who asked him.
It was apparently not Daisy who had given him his orders. Daisy sat
54
at a distance from the piano, and though she had publicly, as it
were, professed a high admiration for his singing, talked, not inau-
dibly, while it was going on.
“It’s a pity these rooms are so small; we can’t dance,” she said to
Winterbourne, as if she had seen him five minutes before.
“I am not sorry we can’t dance,” Winterbourne answered; “I don’t
dance.”
“Of course you don’t dance; you’re too stiff,” said Miss Daisy. “I
hope you enjoyed your drive with Mrs. Walker!”
“No. I didn’t enjoy it; I preferred walking with you.”
“We paired off: that was much better,” said Daisy. “But did you
ever hear anything so cool as Mrs. Walker’s wanting me to get into
her carriage and drop poor Mr. Giovanelli, and under the pretext
that it was proper?People have different ideas! It would have been
most unkind; he had been talking about that walk for ten days.”
“He should not have talked about it at all,” said Winterbourne;
“he would never have proposed to a young lady of this country to
walk about the streets with him.”
“About the streets?” cried Daisy with her pretty stare. “Where,
then, would he have proposed to her to walk?The Pincio is not the
streets, either; and I, thank goodness, am not a young lady of this
country. The young ladies of this country have a dreadfully poky
time of it, so far as I can learn; I don’t see why I should change my
habits for them.”
“I am afraid your habits are those of a flirt,” said Winterbourne
gravely.
“Of course they are,” she cried, giving him her little smiling stare
again. “I’m a fearful, frightful flirt! Did you ever hear of a nice girl
that was not?But I suppose you will tell me now that I am not a
nice girl.”
“You’re a very nice girl; but I wish you would flirt with me, and
me only,” said Winterbourne.
Daisy Miller
55
Henry James
“Ah! thank you—thank you very much; you are the last man I
should think of flirting with. As I have had the pleasure of inform-
ing you, you are too stiff.”
“You say that too often,” said Winterbourne.
Daisy gave a delighted laugh. “If I could have the sweet hope of
making you angry, I should say it again.”
“Don’t do that; when I am angry I’m stiffer than ever. But if you
won’t flirt with me, do cease, at least, to flirt with your friend at the
piano; they don’t understand that sort of thing here.”
“I thought they understood nothing else!” exclaimed Daisy.
“Not in young unmarried women.”
“It seems to me much more proper in young unmarried women
than in old married ones,” Daisy declared.
“Well,” said Winterbourne, “when you deal with natives you must
go by the custom of the place. Flirting is a purely American custom;
it doesn’t exist here. So when you show yourself in public with Mr.
Giovanelli, and without your mother—”
“Gracious! poor Mother!” interposed Daisy.
“Though you may be flirting, Mr. Giovanelli is not; he means
something else.”
“He isn’t preaching, at any rate,” said Daisy with vivacity. “And if
you want very much to know, we are neither of us flirting; we are
too good friends for that: we are very intimate friends.”
“Ah!” rejoined Winterbourne, “if you are in love with each other,
it is another affair.”
She had allowed him up to this point to talk so frankly that he
had no expectation of shocking her by this ejaculation; but she im-
mediately got up, blushing visibly, and leaving him to exclaim men-
tally that little American flirts were the queerest creatures in the
world. “Mr. Giovanelli, at least,” she said, giving her interlocutor a
single glance, “never says such very disagreeable things to me.”
Winterbourne was bewildered; he stood, staring. Mr. Giovanelli
56
had finished singing. He left the piano and came over to Daisy.
“Won’t you come into the other room and have some tea?” he asked,
bending before her with his ornamental smile.
Daisy turned to Winterbourne, beginning to smile again. He was
still more perplexed, for this inconsequent smile made nothing clear,
though it seemed to prove, indeed, that she had a sweetness and
softness that reverted instinctively to the pardon of offenses. “It has
never occurred to Mr. Winterbourne to offer me any tea,” she said
with her little tormenting manner.
“I have offered you advice,” Winterbourne rejoined.
“I prefer weak tea!” cried Daisy, and she went off with the bril-
liant Giovanelli. She sat with him in the adjoining room, in the
embrasure of the window, for the rest of the evening. There was an
interesting performance at the piano, but neither of these young
people gave heed to it. When Daisy came to take leave of Mrs.
Walker, this lady conscientiously repaired the weakness of which
she had been guilty at the moment of the young girl’s arrival. She
turned her back straight upon Miss Miller and left her to depart
with what grace she might. Winterbourne was standing near the
door; he saw it all. Daisy turned very pale and looked at her mother,
but Mrs. Miller was humbly unconscious of any violation of the
usual social forms. She appeared, indeed, to have felt an incongru-
ous impulse to draw attention to her own striking observance of
them. “Good night, Mrs. Walker,” she said; “we’ve had a beautiful
evening. You see, if I let Daisy come to parties without me, I don’t
want her to go away without me.” Daisy turned away, looking with
a pale, grave face at the circle near the door; Winterbourne saw that,
for the first moment, she was too much shocked and puzzled even
for indignation. He on his side was greatly touched.
“That was very cruel,” he said to Mrs. Walker.
“She never enters my drawing room again!” replied his hostess.
Since Winterbourne was not to meet her in Mrs. Walker’s draw-
Daisy Miller
57
Henry James
ing room, he went as often as possible to Mrs. Miller’s hotel. The
ladies were rarely at home, but when he found them, the devoted
Giovanelli was always present. Very often the brilliant little Roman
was in the drawing room with Daisy alone, Mrs. Miller being ap-
parently constantly of the opinion that discretion is the better part
of surveillance. Winterbourne noted, at first with surprise, that Daisy
on these occasions was never embarrassed or annoyed by his own
entrance; but he very presently began to feel that she had no more
surprises for him; the unexpected in her behavior was the only thing
to expect. She showed no displeasure at her tete-a-tete with Giovanelli
being interrupted; she could chatter as freshly and freely with two
gentlemen as with one; there was always, in her conversation, the
same odd mixture of audacity and puerility. Winterbourne remarked
to himself that if she was seriously interested in Giovanelli, it was
very singular that she should not take more trouble to preserve the
sanctity of their interviews; and he liked her the more for her inno-
cent-looking indifference and her apparently inexhaustible good hu-
mor. He could hardly have said why, but she seemed to him a girl
who would never be jealous. At the risk of exciting a somewhat
derisive smile on the reader’s part, I may affirm that with regard to
the women who had hitherto interested him, it very often seemed
to Winterbourne among the possibilities that, given certain contin-
gencies, he should be afraid—literally afraid—of these ladies; he
had a pleasant sense that he should never be afraid of Daisy Miller.
It must be added that this sentiment was not altogether flattering to
Daisy; it was part of his conviction, or rather of his apprehension,
that she would prove a very light young person.
But she was evidently very much interested in Giovanelli. She
looked at him whenever he spoke; she was perpetually telling him
to do this and to do that; she was constantly “chaffing” and abusing
him. She appeared completely to have forgotten that Winterbourne
had said anything to displease her at Mrs. Walker’s little party. One
58
Sunday afternoon, having gone to St. Peter’s with his aunt, Winter-
bourne perceived Daisy strolling about the great church in com-
pany with the inevitable Giovanelli. Presently he pointed out the
young girl and her cavalier to Mrs. Costello. This lady looked at
them a moment through her eyeglass, and then she said:
“That’s what makes you so pensive in these days, eh?”
“I had not the least idea I was pensive,” said the young man.
“You are very much preoccupied; you are thinking of something.”
“And what is it,” he asked, “that you accuse me of thinking of?”
“Of that young lady’s—Miss Baker’s, Miss Chandler’s—what’s her
name?—Miss Miller’s intrigue with that little barber’s block.”
“Do you call it an intrigue,” Winterbourne asked—”an affair that
goes on with such peculiar publicity?”
“That’s their folly,” said Mrs. Costello; “it’s not their merit.”
“No,” rejoined Winterbourne, with something of that pensive-
ness to which his aunt had alluded. “I don’t believe that there is
anything to be called an intrigue.”
“I have heard a dozen people speak of it; they say she is quite
carried away by him.”
“They are certainly very intimate,” said Winterbourne.
Mrs. Costello inspected the young couple again with her optical
instrument. “He is very handsome. One easily sees how it is. She
thinks him the most elegant man in the world, the finest gentle-
man. She has never seen anything like him; he is better, even, than
the courier. It was the courier probably who introduced him; and if
he succeeds in marrying the young lady, the courier will come in for
a magnificent commission.”
“I don’t believe she thinks of marrying him,” said Winterbourne,
“and I don’t believe he hopes to marry her.”
“You may be very sure she thinks of nothing. She goes on from
day to day, from hour to hour, as they did in the Golden Age. I can
imagine nothing more vulgar. And at the same time,” added Mrs.
Daisy Miller
59
Henry James
Costello, “depend upon it that she may tell you any moment that
she is ‘engaged.’”
“I think that is more than Giovanelli expects,” said Winterbourne.
“Who is Giovanelli?”
“The little Italian. I have asked questions about him and learned
something. He is apparently a perfectly respectable little man. I be-
lieve he is, in a small way, a cavaliere avvocato. But he doesn’t move
in what are called the first circles. I think it is really not absolutely
impossible that the courier introduced him. He is evidently im-
mensely charmed with Miss Miller. If she thinks him the finest gentle-
man in the world, he, on his side, has never found himself in per-
sonal contact with such splendor, such opulence, such expensive-
ness as this young lady’s. And then she must seem to him wonder-
fully pretty and interesting. I rather doubt that he dreams of marry-
ing her. That must appear to him too impossible a piece of luck. He
has nothing but his handsome face to offer, and there is a substan-
tial Mr. Miller in that mysterious land of dollars. Giovanelli knows
that he hasn’t a title to offer. If he were only a count or a marchese!
He must wonder at his luck, at the way they have taken him up.”
“He accounts for it by his handsome face and thinks Miss Miller
a young lady qui se passe ses fantaisies!” said Mrs. Costello.
“It is very true,” Winterbourne pursued, “that Daisy and her
mamma have not yet risen to that stage of—what shall I call it?—of
culture at which the idea of catching a count or a marchese begins.
I believe that they are intellectually incapable of that conception.”
“Ah! but the avvocato can’t believe it,” said Mrs. Costello.
Of the observation excited by Daisy’s “intrigue,” Winterbourne
gathered that day at St. Peter’s sufficient evidence. A dozen of the
American colonists in Rome came to talk with Mrs. Costello, who sat
on a little portable stool at the base of one of the great pilasters. The
vesper service was going forward in splendid chants and organ tones
in the adjacent choir, and meanwhile, between Mrs. Costello and her
60
friends, there was a great deal said about poor little Miss Miller’s go-
ing really “too far.” Winterbourne was not pleased with what he heard,
but when, coming out upon the great steps of the church, he saw
Daisy, who had emerged before him, get into an open cab with her
accomplice and roll away through the cynical streets of Rome, he
could not deny to himself that she was going very far indeed. He felt
very sorry for her—not exactly that he believed that she had com-
pletely lost her head, but because it was painful to hear so much that
was pretty, and undefended, and natural assigned to a vulgar place
among the categories of disorder. He made an attempt after this to
give a hint to Mrs. Miller. He met one day in the Corso a friend, a
tourist like himself, who had just come out of the Doria Palace, where
he had been walking through the beautiful gallery. His friend talked
for a moment about the superb portrait of Innocent X by Velasquez
which hangs in one of the cabinets of the palace, and then said, “And
in the same cabinet, by the way, I had the pleasure of contemplating
a picture of a different kind—that pretty American girl whom you
pointed out to me last week.” In answer to Winterbourne’s inquiries,
his friend narrated that the pretty American girl—prettier than ever—
was seated with a companion in the secluded nook in which the great
papal portrait was enshrined.
“Who was her companion?” asked Winterbourne.
“A little Italian with a bouquet in his buttonhole. The girl is delight-
fully pretty, but I thought I understood from you the other day that she
was a young lady du meilleur monde.”
“So she is!” answered Winterbourne; and having assured himself
that his informant had seen Daisy and her companion but five min-
utes before, he jumped into a cab and went to call on Mrs. Miller.
She was at home; but she apologized to him for receiving him in
Daisy’s absence.
“She’s gone out somewhere with Mr. Giovanelli,” said Mrs. Miller.
“She’s always going round with Mr. Giovanelli.”
Daisy Miller
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Henry James
“I have noticed that they are very intimate,” Winterbourne ob-
served.
“Oh, it seems as if they couldn’t live without each other!” said
Mrs. Miller. “Well, he’s a real gentleman, anyhow. I keep telling
Daisy she’s engaged!”
“And what does Daisy say?”
“Oh, she says she isn’t engaged. But she might as well be!” this
impartial parent resumed; “she goes on as if she was. But I’ve made
Mr. Giovanelli promise to tell me, if SHE doesn’t. I should want to
write to Mr. Miller about it—shouldn’t you?”
Winterbourne replied that he certainly should; and the state of
mind of Daisy’s mamma struck him as so unprecedented in the
annals of parental vigilance that he gave up as utterly irrelevant the
attempt to place her upon her guard.
After this Daisy was never at home, and Winterbourne ceased to
meet her at the houses of their common acquaintances, because, as
he perceived, these shrewd people had quite made up their minds
that she was going too far. They ceased to invite her; and they inti-
mated that they desired to express to observant Europeans the great
truth that, though Miss Daisy Miller was a young American lady,
her behavior was not representative—was regarded by her compa-
triots as abnormal. Winterbourne wondered how she felt about all
the cold shoulders that were turned toward her, and sometimes it
annoyed him to suspect that she did not feel at all. He said to him-
self that she was too light and childish, too uncultivated and unrea-
soning, too provincial, to have reflected upon her ostracism, or even
to have perceived it. Then at other moments he believed that she
carried about in her elegant and irresponsible little organism a defi-
ant, passionate, perfectly observant consciousness of the impression
she produced. He asked himself whether Daisy’s defiance came from
the consciousness of innocence, or from her being, essentially, a
young person of the reckless class. It must be admitted that holding
62
one’s self to a belief in Daisy’s “innocence” came to seem to Winter-
bourne more and more a matter of fine-spun gallantry. As I have
already had occasion to relate, he was angry at finding himself re-
duced to chopping logic about this young lady; he was vexed at his
want of instinctive certitude as to how far her eccentricities were
generic, national, and how far they were personal. From either view
of them he had somehow missed her, and now it was too late. She
was “carried away” by Mr. Giovanelli.
A few days after his brief interview with her mother, he encoun-
tered her in that beautiful abode of flowering desolation known as
the Palace of the Caesars. The early Roman spring had filled the air
with bloom and perfume, and the rugged surface of the Palatine
was muffled with tender verdure. Daisy was strolling along the top
of one of those great mounds of ruin that are embanked with mossy
marble and paved with monumental inscriptions. It seemed to him
that Rome had never been so lovely as just then. He stood, looking
off at the enchanting harmony of line and color that remotely en-
circles the city, inhaling the softly humid odors, and feeling the
freshness of the year and the antiquity of the place reaffirm them-
selves in mysterious interfusion. It seemed to him also that Daisy
had never looked so pretty, but this had been an observation of his
whenever he met her. Giovanelli was at her side, and Giovanelli,
too, wore an aspect of even unwonted brilliancy.
“Well,” said Daisy, “I should think you would be lonesome!”
“Lonesome?” asked Winterbourne.
“You are always going round by yourself. Can’t you get anyone to
walk with you?”
“I am not so fortunate,” said Winterbourne, “as your compan-
ion.”
Giovanelli, from the first, had treated Winterbourne with distin-
guished politeness. He listened with a deferential air to his remarks;
he laughed punctiliously at his pleasantries; he seemed disposed to
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63
Henry James
testify to his belief that Winterbourne was a superior young man.
He carried himself in no degree like a jealous wooer; he had obvi-
ously a great deal of tact; he had no objection to your expecting a
little humility of him. It even seemed to Winterbourne at times that
Giovanelli would find a certain mental relief in being able to have a
private understanding with him—to say to him, as an intelligent
man, that, bless you, HE knew how extraordinary was this young
lady, and didn’t flatter himself with delusive—or at least too delu-
sive—hopes of matrimony and dollars. On this occasion he strolled
away from his companion to pluck a sprig of almond blossom, which
he carefully arranged in his buttonhole.
“I know why you say that,” said Daisy, watching Giovanelli. “Be-
cause you think I go round too much with him.” And she nodded at
her attendant.
“Every one thinks so—if you care to know,” said Winterbourne.
“Of course I care to know!” Daisy exclaimed seriously. “But I
don’t believe it. They are only pretending to be shocked. They don’t
really care a straw what I do. Besides, I don’t go round so much.”
“I think you will find they do care. They will show it disagreeably.”
Daisy looked at him a moment. “How disagreeably?”
“Haven’t you noticed anything?” Winterbourne asked.
“I have noticed you. But I noticed you were as stiff as an umbrella
the first time I saw you.”
“You will find I am not so stiff as several others,” said Winter-
bourne, smiling.
“How shall I find it?”
“By going to see the others.”
“What will they do to me?”
“They will give you the cold shoulder. Do you know what that
means?”
Daisy was looking at him intently; she began to color. “Do you
mean as Mrs. Walker did the other night?”
64
“Exactly!” said Winterbourne.
She looked away at Giovanelli, who was decorating himself with
his almond blossom. Then looking back at Winterbourne, “I
shouldn’t think you would let people be so unkind!” she said.
“How can I help it?” he asked.
“I should think you would say something.”
“I do say something”; and he paused a moment. “I say that your
mother tells me that she believes you are engaged.”
“Well, she does,” said Daisy very simply.
Winterbourne began to laugh. “And does Randolph believe it?”
he asked.
“I guess Randolph doesn’t believe anything,” said Daisy. Randolph’s
skepticism excited Winterbourne to further hilarity, and he observed
that Giovanelli was coming back to them. Daisy, observing it too,
addressed herself again to her countryman. “Since you have men-
tioned it,” she said, “I amengaged.”
Winterbourne looked at her; he had stopped laughing.
“You don’t believe!” she added.
He was silent a moment; and then, “Yes, I believe it,” he said.
“Oh, no, you don’t!” she answered. “Well, then—I am not!”
The young girl and her cicerone were on their way to the gate of
the enclosure, so that Winterbourne, who had but lately entered,
presently took leave of them. A week afterward he went to dine at a
beautiful villa on the Caelian Hill, and, on arriving, dismissed his
hired vehicle. The evening was charming, and he promised himself
the satisfaction of walking home beneath the Arch of Constantine
and past the vaguely lighted monuments of the Forum. There was a
waning moon in the sky, and her radiance was not brilliant, but she
was veiled in a thin cloud curtain which seemed to diffuse and equal-
ize it. When, on his return from the villa (it was eleven o’clock),
Winterbourne approached the dusky circle of the Colosseum, it re-
curred to him, as a lover of the picturesque, that the interior, in the
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Henry James
pale moonshine, would be well worth a glance. He turned aside and
walked to one of the empty arches, near which, as he observed, an
open carriage—one of the little Roman streetcabs—was stationed.
Then he passed in, among the cavernous shadows of the great struc-
ture, and emerged upon the clear and silent arena. The place had
never seemed to him more impressive. One-half of the gigantic cir-
cus was in deep shade, the other was sleeping in the luminous dusk.
As he stood there he began to murmur Byron’s famous lines, out of
“Manfred,” but before he had finished his quotation he remem-
bered that if nocturnal meditations in the Colosseum are recom-
mended by the poets, they are deprecated by the doctors. The his-
toric atmosphere was there, certainly; but the historic atmosphere,
scientifically considered, was no better than a villainous miasma.
Winterbourne walked to the middle of the arena, to take a more
general glance, intending thereafter to make a hasty retreat. The
great cross in the center was covered with shadow; it was only as he
drew near it that he made it out distinctly. Then he saw that two
persons were stationed upon the low steps which formed its base.
One of these was a woman, seated; her companion was standing in
front of her.
Presently the sound of the woman’s voice came to him distinctly
in the warm night air. “Well, he looks at us as one of the old lions or
tigers may have looked at the Christian martyrs!” These were the
words he heard, in the familiar accent of Miss Daisy Miller.
“Let us hope he is not very hungry,” responded the ingenious
Giovanelli. “He will have to take me first; you will serve for des-
sert!”
Winterbourne stopped, with a sort of horror, and, it must be added,
with a sort of relief. It was as if a sudden illumination had been
flashed upon the ambiguity of Daisy’s behavior, and the riddle had
become easy to read. She was a young lady whom a gentleman need
no longer be at pains to respect. He stood there, looking at her—
66
looking at her companion and not reflecting that though he saw
them vaguely, he himself must have been more brightly visible. He
felt angry with himself that he had bothered so much about the
right way of regarding Miss Daisy Miller. Then, as he was going to
advance again, he checked himself, not from the fear that he was
doing her injustice, but from a sense of the danger of appearing
unbecomingly exhilarated by this sudden revulsion from cautious
criticism. He turned away toward the entrance of the place, but, as
he did so, he heard Daisy speak again.
“Why, it was Mr. Winterbourne! He saw me, and he cuts me!”
What a clever little reprobate she was, and how smartly she played
at injured innocence! But he wouldn’t cut her. Winterbourne came
forward again and went toward the great cross. Daisy had got up;
Giovanelli lifted his hat. Winterbourne had now begun to think
simply of the craziness, from a sanitary point of view, of a delicate
young girl lounging away the evening in this nest of malaria. What
if she WERE a clever little reprobate?that was no reason for her
dying of the perniciosa. “How long have you been here?” he asked
almost brutally.
Daisy, lovely in the flattering moonlight, looked at him a mo-
ment. Then—”All the evening,” she answered, gently. “I never saw
anything so pretty.”
“I am afraid,” said Winterbourne, “that you will not think Ro-
man fever very pretty. This is the way people catch it. I wonder,” he
added, turning to Giovanelli, “that you, a native Roman, should
countenance such a terrible indiscretion.”
“Ah,” said the handsome native, “for myself I am not afraid.”
“Neither am I—for you! I am speaking for this young lady.”
Giovanelli lifted his well-shaped eyebrows and showed his bril-
liant teeth. But he took Winterbourne’s rebuke with docility. “I told
the signorina it was a grave indiscretion, but when was the signo-
rina ever prudent?”
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“I never was sick, and I don’t mean to be!” the signorina declared.
“I don’t look like much, but I’m healthy! I was bound to see the
Colosseum by moonlight; I shouldn’t have wanted to go home with-
out that; and we have had the most beautiful time, haven’t we, Mr.
Giovanelli?If there has been any danger, Eugenio can give me some
pills. He has got some splendid pills.”
“I should advise you,” said Winterbourne, “to drive home as fast
as possible and take one!”
“What you say is very wise,” Giovanelli rejoined. “I will go and
make sure the carriage is at hand.” And he went forward rapidly.
Daisy followed with Winterbourne. He kept looking at her; she
seemed not in the least embarrassed. Winterbourne said nothing;
Daisy chattered about the beauty of the place. “Well, I haveseen the
Colosseum by moonlight!” she exclaimed. “That’s one good thing.”
Then, noticing Winterbourne’s silence, she asked him why he didn’t
speak. He made no answer; he only began to laugh. They passed
under one of the dark archways; Giovanelli was in front with the
carriage. Here Daisy stopped a moment, looking at the young Ameri-
can. “Did you believe I was engaged, the other day?” she asked.
“It doesn’t matter what I believed the other day,” said Winter-
bourne, still laughing.
“Well, what do you believe now?”
“I believe that it makes very little difference whether you are en-
gaged or not!”
He felt the young girl’s pretty eyes fixed upon him through the
thick gloom of the archway; she was apparently going to answer.
But Giovanelli hurried her forward. “Quick! quick!” he said; “if we
get in by midnight we are quite safe.”
Daisy took her seat in the carriage, and the fortunate Italian placed
himself beside her. “Don’t forget Eugenio’s pills!” said Winterbourne
as he lifted his hat.
“I don’t care,” said Daisy in a little strange tone, “whether I have
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Roman fever or not!” Upon this the cab driver cracked his whip,
and they rolled away over the desultory patches of the antique pave-
ment.
Winterbourne, to do him justice, as it were, mentioned to no one
that he had encountered Miss Miller, at midnight, in the Colos-
seum with a gentleman; but nevertheless, a couple of days later, the
fact of her having been there under these circumstances was known
to every member of the little American circle, and commented ac-
cordingly. Winterbourne reflected that they had of course known it
at the hotel, and that, after Daisy’s return, there had been an ex-
change of remarks between the porter and the cab driver. But the
young man was conscious, at the same moment, that it had ceased
to be a matter of serious regret to him that the little American flirt
should be “talked about” by low-minded menials. These people, a
day or two later, had serious information to give: the little American
flirt was alarmingly ill. Winterbourne, when the rumor came to
him, immediately went to the hotel for more news. He found that
two or three charitable friends had preceded him, and that they
were being entertained in Mrs. Miller’s salon by Randolph.
“It’s going round at night,” said Randolph—”that’s what made
her sick. She’s always going round at night. I shouldn’t think she’d
want to, it’s so plaguy dark. You can’t see anything here at night,
except when there’s a moon. In America there’s always a moon!”
Mrs. Miller was invisible; she was now, at least, giving her aughter
the advantage of her society. It was evident that Daisy was danger-
ously ill.
Winterbourne went often to ask for news of her, and once he saw
Mrs. Miller, who, though deeply alarmed, was, rather to his sur-
prise, perfectly composed, and, as it appeared, a most efficient and
judicious nurse. She talked a good deal about Dr. Davis, but Win-
terbourne paid her the compliment of saying to himself that she
was not, after all, such a monstrous goose. “Daisy spoke of you the
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69
Henry James
other day,” she said to him. “Half the time she doesn’t know what
she’s saying, but that time I think she did. She gave me a message
she told me to tell you. She told me to tell you that she never was
engaged to that handsome Italian. I am sure I am very glad; Mr.
Giovanelli hasn’t been near us since she was taken ill. I thought he
was so much of a gentleman; but I don’t call that very polite! A lady
told me that he was afraid I was angry with him for taking Daisy
round at night. Well, so I am, but I suppose he knows I’m a lady. I
would scorn to scold him. Anyway, she says she’s not engaged. I
don’t know why she wanted you to know, but she said to me three
times, ‘Mind you tell Mr. Winterbourne.’ And then she told me to
ask if you remembered the time you went to that castle in Switzer-
land. But I said I wouldn’t give any such messages as that. Only, if
she is not engaged, I’m sure I’m glad to know it.”
But, as Winterbourne had said, it mattered very little. A week
after this, the poor girl died; it had been a terrible case of the fever.
Daisy’s grave was in the little Protestant cemetery, in an angle of the
wall of imperial Rome, beneath the cypresses and the thick spring
flowers. Winterbourne stood there beside it, with a number of other
mourners, a number larger than the scandal excited by the young
lady’s career would have led you to expect. Near him stood Giovanelli,
who came nearer still before Winterbourne turned away. Giovanelli
was very pale: on this occasion he had no flower in his buttonhole;
he seemed to wish to say something. At last he said, “She was the
most beautiful young lady I ever saw, and the most amiable”; and
then he added in a moment, “and she was the most innocent.”
Winterbourne looked at him and presently repeated his words,
“And the most innocent?”
“The most innocent!”
Winterbourne felt sore and angry. “Why the devil,” he asked,
“did you take her to that fatal place?”
Mr. Giovanelli’s urbanity was apparently imperturbable. He looked
70
on the ground a moment, and then he said, “For myself I had no
fear; and she wanted to go.”
“That was no reason!” Winterbourne declared.
The subtle Roman again dropped his eyes. “If she had lived, I
should have got nothing. She would never have married me, I am
sure.”
“She would never have married you?”
“For a moment I hoped so. But no. I am sure.”
Winterbourne listened to him: he stood staring at the raw protu-
berance among the April daisies. When he turned away again, Mr.
Giovanelli, with his light, slow step, had retired.
Winterbourne almost immediately left Rome; but the following
summer he again met his aunt, Mrs. Costello at Vevey. Mrs. Costello
was fond of Vevey. In the interval Winterbourne had often thought
of Daisy Miller and her mystifying manners. One day he spoke of
her to his aunt—said it was on his conscience that he had done her
injustice.
“I am sure I don’t know,” said Mrs. Costello. “How did your in-
justice affect her?”
“She sent me a message before her death which I didn’t under-
stand at the time; but I have understood it since. She would have
appreciated one’s esteem.”
“Is that a modest way,” asked Mrs. Costello, “of saying that she
would have reciprocated one’s affection?”
Winterbourne offered no answer to this question; but he pres-
ently said, “You were right in that remark that you made last sum-
mer. I was booked to make a mistake. I have lived too long in for-
eign parts.”
Nevertheless, he went back to live at Geneva, whence there con-
tinue to come the most contradictory accounts of his motives of
sojourn: a report that he is “studying” hard—an intimation that he
is much interested in a very clever foreign lady.
Daisy Miller
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The Coxon Fund
by
Henry James
CHAPTER I
“THEY’VE GOT HIM FOR LIFE!” I said to myself that evening on my
way back to the station; but later on, alone in the compartment
(from Wimbledon to Waterloo, before the glory of the District Rail-
way) I amended this declaration in the light of the sense that my
friends would probably after all not enjoy a monopoly of Mr. Saltram.
I won’t pretend to have taken his vast measure on that first occasion,
but I think I had achieved a glimpse of what the privilege of his
acquaintance might mean for many persons in the way of charges
accepted. He had been a great experience, and it was this perhaps
that had put me into the frame of foreseeing how we should all,
sooner or later, have the honour of dealing with him as a whole.
Whatever impression I then received of the, amount of this total, I
had a full enough vision of the patience of the Mulvilles. He was to
stay all the winter: Adelaide dropped it in a tone that drew the sting
from the inevitable emphasis. These excellent people might indeed
have been content to give the circle of hospitality a diameter of six
72
months; but if they didn’t say he was to stay all summer as well it
was only because this was more than they ventured to hope. I re-
member that at dinner that evening he wore slippers, new and pre-
dominantly purple, of some queer carpet-stuff; but the Mulvilles
were still in the stage of supposing that he might be snatched from
them by higher bidders. At a later time they grew, poor dears, to
fear no snatching; but theirs was a fidelity which needed no help
from competition to make them proud. Wonderful indeed as, when
all was said, you inevitably pronounced Frank Saltram, it was not to
be overlooked that the Kent Mulvilles were in their way still more
extraordinary: as striking an instance as could easily be encountered
of the familiar truth that remarkable men find remarkable conve-
niences.
They had sent for me from Wimbledon to come out and dine,
and there had been an implication in Adelaide’s note—judged by
her notes alone she might have been thought silly—that it was a
case in which something momentous was to be determined or done.
I had never known them not be in a “state” about somebody, and I
dare say I tried to be droll on this point in accepting their invita-
tion. On finding myself in the presence of their latest discovery I
had not at first felt irreverence droop—and, thank heaven, I have
never been absolutely deprived of that alternative in Mr. Saltram’s
company. I saw, however—I hasten to declare it—that compared to
this specimen their other phoenixes had been birds of inconsider-
able feather, and I afterwards took credit to myself for not having
even in primal bewilderments made a mistake about the essence of
the man. He had an incomparable gift; I never was blind to it—it
dazzles me still. It dazzles me perhaps even more in remembrance
than in fact, for I’m not unaware that for so rare a subject the imagi-
nation goes to some expense, inserting a jewel here and there or
giving a twist to a plume. How the art of portraiture would rejoice
in this figure if the art of portraiture had only the canvas! Nature, in
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Henry James
truth, had largely rounded it, and if memory, hovering about it,
sometimes holds her breath, this is because the voice that comes
back was really golden.
Though the great man was an inmate and didn’t dress, he kept
dinner on this occasion waiting, and the first words he uttered on
coming into the room were an elated announcement to Mulville
that he had found out something. Not catching the allusion and
gaping doubtless a little at his face, I privately asked Adelaide what
he had found out. I shall never forget the look she gave me as she
replied: “Everything!” She really believed it. At that moment, at any
rate, he had found out that the mercy of the Mulvilles was infinite.
He had previously of course discovered, as I had myself for that
matter, that their dinners were soignes. Let me not indeed, in saying
this, neglect to declare that I shall falsify my counterfeit if I seem to
hint that there was in his nature any ounce of calculation. He took
whatever came, but he never plotted for it, and no man who was so
much of an absorbent can ever have been so little of a parasite. He
had a system of the universe, but he had no system of sponging—
that was quite hand-to-mouth. He had fine gross easy senses, but it
was not his good-natured appetite that wrought confusion. If he
had loved us for our dinners we could have paid with our dinners,
and it would have been a great economy of finer matter. I make free
in these connexions with the plural possessive because if I was never
able to do what the Mulvilles did, and people with still bigger houses
and simpler charities, I met, first and last, every demand of reflexion,
of emotion—particularly perhaps those of gratitude and of resent-
ment. No one, I think, paid the tribute of giving him up so often,
and if it’s rendering honour to borrow wisdom I’ve a right to talk of
my sacrifices. He yielded lessons as the sea yields fish—I lived for a
while on this diet. Sometimes it almost appeared to me that his
massive monstrous failure—if failure after all it was—had been de-
signed for my private recreation. He fairly pampered my curiosity;
74
but the history of that experience would take me too far. This is not
the large canvas I just now spoke of, and I wouldn’t have approached
him with my present hand had it been a question of all the features.
Frank Saltram’s features, for artistic purposes, are verily the anec-
dotes that are to be gathered. Their name is legion, and this is only
one, of which the interest is that it concerns even more closely sev-
eral other persons. Such episodes, as one looks back, are the little
dramas that made up the innumerable facets of the big drama—
which is yet to be reported.
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Henry James
CHAPTER II
IT IS FURTHERMORE REMARKABLE that though the two stories are dis-
tinct—my own, as it were, and this other—they equally began, in a
manner, the first night of my acquaintance with Frank Saltram, the
night I came back from Wimbledon so agitated with a new sense of
life that, in London, for the very thrill of it, I could only walk home.
Walking and swinging my stick, I overtook, at Buckingham Gate,
George Gravener, and George Gravener’s story may be said to have
begun with my making him, as our paths lay together, come home
with me for a talk. I duly remember, let me parenthesise, that it was
still more that of another person, and also that several years were to
elapse before it was to extend to a second chapter. I had much to say
to him, none the less, about my visit to the Mulvilles, whom he
more indifferently knew, and I was at any rate so amusing that for
long afterwards he never encountered me without asking for news
of the old man of the sea. I hadn’t said Mr. Saltram was old, and it
was to be seen that he was of an age to outweather George Gravener.
I had at that time a lodging in Ebury Street, and Gravener was stay-
ing at his brother’s empty house in Eaton Square. At Cambridge,
five years before, even in our devastating set, his intellectual power
had seemed to me almost awful. Some one had once asked me pri-
vately, with blanched cheeks, what it was then that after all such a
mind as that left standing. “It leaves itself!” I could recollect de-
voutly replying. I could smile at present for this remembrance, since
before we got to Ebury Street I was struck with the fact that, save in
76
the sense of being well set up on his legs, George Gravener had
actually ceased to tower. The universe he laid low had somehow
bloomed again—the usual eminences were visible. I wondered
whether he had lost his humour, or only, dreadful thought, had
never had any—not even when I had fanci ed hi m most
Aristophanesque. What was the need of appealing to laughter, how-
ever, I could enviously enquire, where you might appeal so confi-
dently to measurement?Mr. Saltram’s queer figure, his thick nose
and hanging lip, were fresh to me: in the light of my old friend’s fine
cold symmetry they presented mere success in amusing as the ref-
uge of conscious ugliness. Already, at hungry twenty-six, Gravener
looked as blank and parliamentary as if he were fifty and popular.
In my scrap of a residence—he had a worldling’s eye for its futile
conveniences, but never a comrade’s joke—I sounded Frank Saltram
in his ears; a circumstance I mention in order to note that even then
I was surprised at his impatience of my enlivenment. As he had
never before heard of the personage it took indeed the form of im-
patience of the preposterous Mulvilles, his relation to whom, like
mine, had had its origin in an early, a childish intimacy with the
young Adelaide, the fruit of multiplied ties in the previous genera-
tion. When she married Kent Mulville, who was older than Gravener
and I and much more amiable, I gained a friend, but Gravener prac-
tically lost one. We reacted in different ways from the form taken by
what he called their deplorable social action—the form (the term
was also his) of nasty second-rate gush. I may have held in my ‘for
interieur’ that the good people at Wimbledon were beautiful fools,
but when he sniffed at them I couldn’t help taking the opposite line,
for I already felt that even should we happen to agree it would al-
ways be for reasons that differed. It came home to me that he was
admirably British as, without so much as a sociable sneer at my
bookbinder, he turned away from the serried rows of my little French
library.
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“Of course I’ve never seen the fellow, but it’s clear enough he’s a
humbug.”
“Clear ‘enough’ is just what it isn’t,” I replied; “if it only were!”
That ejaculation on my part must have been the beginning of what
was to be later a long ache for final frivolous rest. Gravener was
profound enough to remark after a moment that in the first place
he couldn’t be anything but a Dissenter, and when I answered that
the very note of his fascination was his extraordinary speculative
breadth my friend retorted that there was no cad like your culti-
vated cad, and that I might depend upon discovering—since I had
had the levity not already to have enquired—that my shining light
proceeded, a generation back, from a Methodist cheesemonger. I
confess I was struck with his insistence, and I said, after reflexion:
“It may be—I admit it may be; but why on earth are you so sure?”—
asking the question mainly to lay him the trap of saying that it was
because the poor man didn’t dress for dinner. He took an instant to
circumvent my trap and come blandly out the other side.
“Because the Kent Mulvilles have invented him. They’ve an infallible
hand for frauds. All their geese are swans. They were born to be duped,
they like it, they cry for it, they don’t know anything from anything,
and they disgust one—luckily perhaps!—with Christian charity.” His
vehemence was doubtless an accident, but it might have been a strange
foreknowledge. I forget what protest I dropped; it was at any rate some-
thing that led him to go on after a moment: “I only ask one thing—it’s
perfectly simple. Is a man, in a given case, a real gentleman?”
“A real gentleman, my dear fellow—that’s so soon said!”
“Not so soon when he isn’t! If they’ve got hold of one this time he
must be a great rascal!”
“I might feel injured,” I answered, “if I didn’t reflect that they
don’t rave about me.”
“Don’t be too sure! I’ll grant that he’s a gentleman,” Gravener pres-
ently added, “if you’ll admit that he’s a scamp.”
78
“I don’t know which to admire most, your logic or your benevo-
lence.”
My friend coloured at this, but he didn’t change the subject.
“Where did they pick him up?”
“I think they were struck with something he had published.”
“I can fancy the dreary thing!”
“I believe they found out he had all sorts of worries and difficul-
ties.”
“That of course wasn’t to be endured, so they jumped at the privi-
lege of paying his debts!” I professed that I knew nothing about his
debts, and I reminded my visitor that though the dear Mulvilles
were angels they were neither idiots nor millionaires. What they
mainly aimed at was reuniting Mr. Saltram to his wife. “I was ex-
pecting to hear he has basely abandoned her,” Gravener went on, at
this, “and I’m too glad you don’t disappoint me.”
I tried to recall exactly what Mrs. Mulville had told me. “He didn’t
leave her—no. It’s she who has left him.”
“Left him to us?” Gravener asked. “The monster—many thanks!
I decline to take him.”
“You’ll hear more about him in spite of yourself. I can’t, no, I
really can’t resist the impression that he’s a big man.” I was already
mastering—to my shame perhaps be it said—just the tone my old
friend least liked.
“It’s doubtless only a trifle,” he returned, “but you haven’t hap-
pened to mention what his reputation’s to rest on.”
“Why on what I began by boring you with—his extraordinary
mind.”
“As exhibited in his writings?”
“Possibly in his writings, but certainly in his talk, which is far and
away the richest I ever listened to.”
“And what’s it all about?”
“My dear fellow, don’t ask me! About everything!” I pursued, re-
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Henry James
minding myself of poor Adelaide. “About his ideas of things,” I
then more charitably added. “You must have heard him to know
what I mean—it’s unlike anything that ever washeard.” I coloured,
I admit, I overcharged a little, for such a picture was an anticipation
of Saltram’s later development and still more of my fuller acquain-
tance with him. However, I really expressed, a little lyrically per-
haps, my actual imagination of him when I proceeded to declare
that, in a cloud of tradition, of legend, he might very well go down
to posterity as the greatest of all great talkers. Before we parted George
Gravener had wondered why such a row should be made about a
chatterbox the more and why he should be pampered and pensioned.
The greater the wind-bag the greater the calamity. Out of propor-
tion to everything else on earth had come to be this wagging of the
tongue. We were drenched with talk—our wretched age was dying
of it. I differed from him here sincerely, only going so far as to
concede, and gladly, that we were drenched with sound. It was not
however the mere speakers who were killing us—it was the mere
stammerers. Fine talk was as rare as it was refreshing—the gift of
the gods themselves, the one starry spangle on the ragged cloak of
humanity. How many men were there who rose to this privilege, of
how many masters of conversation could he boast the acquaintance?
Dying of talk?—why we were dying of the lack of it! Bad writing
wasn’t talk, as many people seemed to think, and even good wasn’t
always to be compared to it. From the best talk indeed the best
writing had something to learn. I fancifully added that we too should
peradventure be gilded by the legend, should be pointed at for hav-
ing listened, for having actually heard. Gravener, who had glanced
at his watch and discovered it was midnight, found to all this a
retort beautifully characteristic of him.
“There’s one little fact to be borne in mind in the presence equally
of the best talk and of the worst.” He looked, in saying this, as if he
meant great things, and I was sure he could only mean once more
80
that neither of them mattered if a man wasn’t a real gentleman.
Perhaps it was what he did mean; he deprived me however of the
exultation of being right by putting the truth in a slightly different
way. “The only thing that really counts for one’s estimate of a per-
son is his conduct.” He had his watch still in his palm, and I re-
proached him with unfair play in having ascertained beforehand
that it was now the hour at which I always gave in. My pleasantry so
far failed to mollify him that he promptly added that to the rule he
had just enunciated there was absolutely no exception.
“None whatever?”
“None whatever.”
“Trust me then to try to be good at any price!” I laughed as I went
with him to the door. “I declare I will be, if I have to be horrible!”
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Henry James
CHAPTER III
IF THAT FIRST NIGHT was one of the liveliest, or at any rate was the
freshest, of my exaltations, there was another, four years later, that
was one of my great discomposures. Repetition, I well knew by this
time, was the secret of Saltram’s power to alienate, and of course one
would never have seen him at his finest if one hadn’t seen him in his
remorses. They set in mainly at this season and were magnificent,
elemental, orchestral. I was quite aware that one of these atmospheric
disturbances was now due; but none the less, in our arduous at-
tempt to set him on his feet as a lecturer, it was impossible not to
feel that two failures were a large order, as we said, for a short course
of five. This was the second time, and it was past nine o’clock; the
audience, a muster unprecedented and really encouraging, had for-
tunately the attitude of blandness that might have been looked for
in persons whom the promise of (if I’m not mistaken) An Analysis
of Primary Ideas had drawn to the neighbourhood of Upper Baker
Street. There was in those days in that region a petty lecture-hall to
be secured on terms as moderate as the funds left at our disposal by
the irrepressible question of the maintenance of five small Saltrams—
I include the mother—and one large one. By the time the Saltrams,
of different sizes, were all maintained we had pretty well poured out
the oil that might have lubricated the machinery for enabling the
most original of men to appear to maintain them.
It was I, the other time, who had been forced into the breach,
standing up there for an odious lamplit moment to explain to half a
82
dozen thin benches, where earnest brows were virtuously void of
anything so cynical as a suspicion, that we couldn’t so much as put
a finger on Mr. Saltram. There was nothing to plead but that our
scouts had been out from the early hours and that we were afraid
that on one of his walks abroad—he took one, for meditation, when-
ever he was to address such a company—some accident had dis-
abled or delayed him. The meditative walks were a fiction, for he
never, that any one could discover, prepared anything but a mag-
nificent prospectus; hence his circulars and programmes, of which I
possess an almost complete collection, are the solemn ghosts of gen-
erations never born. I put the case, as it seemed to me, at the best;
but I admit I had been angry, and Kent Mulville was shocked at my
want of public optimism. This time therefore I left the excuses to
his more practised patience, only relieving myself in response to a
direct appeal from a young lady next whom, in the hall, I found
myself sitting. My position was an accident, but if it had been cal-
culated the reason would scarce have eluded an observer of the fact
that no one else in the room had an approach to an appearance.
Our philosopher’s “tail” was deplorably limp. This visitor was the
only person who looked at her ease, who had come a little in the
spirit of adventure. She seemed to carry amusement in her hand-
some young head, and her presence spoke, a little mystifyingly, of a
sudden extension of Saltram’s sphere of influence. He was doing
better than we hoped, and he had chosen such an occasion, of all
occasions, to succumb to heaven knew which of his fond infirmi-
ties. The young lady produced an impression of auburn hair and
black velvet, and had on her other hand a companion of obscurer
type, presumably a waiting-maid. She herself might perhaps have
been a foreign countess, and before she addressed me I had beguiled
our sorry interval by finding in her a vague recall of the opening of
some novel of Madame Sand. It didn’t make her more fathomable
to pass in a few minutes from this to the certitude that she was
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Henry James
American; it simply engendered depressing reflexions as to the pos-
sible check to contributions from Boston. She asked me if, as a per-
son apparently more initiated, I would recommend further waiting,
and I answered that if she considered I was on my honour I would
privately deprecate it. Perhaps she didn’t; at any rate our talk took a
turn that prolonged it till she became aware we were left almost
alone. I presently ascertained she knew Mrs. Saltram, and this ex-
plained in a manner the miracle. The brotherhood of the friends of
the husband was as nothing to the brotherhood, or perhaps I should
say the sisterhood, of the friends of the wife. Like the Kent Mulvilles
I belonged to both fraternities, and even better than they I think I
had sounded the abyss of Mrs. Saltram’s wrongs. She bored me to
extinction, and I knew but too well how she had bored her hus-
band; but there were those who stood by her, the most efficient of
whom were indeed the handful of poor Saltram’s backers. They did
her liberal justice, whereas her mere patrons and partisans had noth-
ing but hatred for our philosopher. I’m bound to say it was we,
however—we of both camps, as it were—who had always done most
for her.
I thought my young lady looked rich—I scarcely knew why; and
I hoped she had put her hand in her pocket. I soon made her out,
however, not at all a fine fanatic—she was but a generous, irrespon-
sible enquirer. She had come to England to see her aunt, and it was
at her aunt’s she had met the dreary lady we had all so much on our
mind. I saw she’d help to pass the time when she observed that it
was a pity this lady wasn’t intrinsically more interesting. That was
refreshing, for it was an article of faith in Mrs. Saltram’s circle—at
least among those who scorned to know her horrid husband—that
she was attractive on her merits. She was in truth a most ordinary
person, as Saltram himself would have been if he hadn’t been a
prodigy. The question of vulgarity had no application to him, but it
was a measure his wife kept challenging you to apply. I hasten to
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add that the consequences of your doing so were no sufficient rea-
son for his having left her to starve. “He doesn’t seem to have much
force of character,” said my young lady; at which I laughed out so
loud that my departing friends looked back at me over their shoul-
ders as if I were making a joke of their discomfiture. My joke prob-
ably cost Saltram a subscription or two, but it helped me on with
my interlocutress. “She says he drinks like a fish,” she sociably con-
tinued, “and yet she allows that his mind’s wonderfully clear.” It was
amusing to converse with a pretty girl who could talk of the clear-
ness of Saltram’s mind. I expected next to hear she had been assured
he was awfully clever. I tried to tell her—I had it almost on my
conscience—what was the proper way to regard him; an effort at-
tended perhaps more than ever on this occasion with the usual ef-
fect of my feeling that I wasn’t after all very sure of it. She had come
to-night out of high curiosity—she had wanted to learn this proper
way for herself. She had read some of his papers and hadn’t under-
stood them; but it was at home, at her aunt’s, that her curiosity had
been kindled—kindled mainly by his wife’s remarkable stories of
his want of virtue. “I suppose they ought to have kept me away,” my
companion dropped, “and I suppose they’d have done so if I hadn’t
somehow got an idea that he’s fascinating. In fact Mrs. Saltram her-
self says he is.”
“So you came to see where the fascination resides?Well, you’ve
seen!”
My young lady raised fine eyebrows. “Do you mean in his bad
faith?”
“In the extraordinary effects of it; his possession, that is, of some
quality or other that condemns us in advance to forgive him the
humiliation, as I may call it, to which he has subjected us.”
“The humiliation?”
“Why mine, for instance, as one of his guarantors, before you as
the purchaser of a ticket.”
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She let her charming gay eyes rest on me. “You don’t look humili-
ated a bit, and if you did I should let you off, disappointed as I am;
for the mysterious quality you speak of is just the quality I came to
see.”
“Oh, you can’t ‘see’ it!” I cried.
“How then do you get at it?”
“You don’t! You mustn’t suppose he’s good-looking,” I added.
“Why his wife says he’s lovely!”
My hilarity may have struck her as excessive, but I confess it broke
out afresh. Had she acted only in obedience to this singular plea, so
characteristic, on Mrs. Saltram’s part, of what was irritating in the
narrowness of that lady’s point of view?“Mrs. Saltram,” I explained,
“undervalues him where he’s strongest, so that, to make up for it
perhaps, she overpraises him where he’s weak. He’s not, assuredly,
superficially attractive; he’s middle-aged, fat, featureless save for his
great eyes.”
“Yes, his great eyes,” said my young lady attentively. She had evi-
dently heard all about his great eyes—the beaux yeux for which
alone we had really done it all.
“They’re tragic and splendid—lights on a dangerous coast. But
he moves badly and dresses worse, and altogether he’s anything but
smart.”
My companion, who appeared to reflect on this, after a moment
appealed. “Do you call him a real gentleman?”
I started slightly at the question, for I had a sense of recognising
it: George Gravener, years before, that first flushed night, had put
me face to face with it. It had embarrassed me then, but it didn’t
embarrass me now, for I had lived with it and overcome it and dis-
posed of it. “A real gentleman?Emphatically not!”
My promptitude surprised her a little, but I quickly felt how little
it was to Gravener I was now talking. “Do you say that because
he’s—what do you call it in England?—of humble extraction?”
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“Not a bit. His father was a country school-master and his mother
the widow of a sexton, but that has nothing to do with it. I say it
simply because I know him well.”
“But isn’t it an awful drawback?”
“Awful—quite awful.”
“I mean isn’t it positively fatal?”
“Fatal to what?Not to his magnificent vitality.”
Again she had a meditative moment. “And is his magnificent vi-
tality the cause of his vices?”
“Your questions are formidable, but I’m glad you put them. I was
thinking of his noble intellect. His vices, as you say, have been much
exaggerated: they consist mainly after all in one comprehensive defect.”
“A want of will?”
“A want of dignity.”
“He doesn’t recognise his obligations?”
“On the contrary, he recognises them with effusion, especially in
public: he smiles and bows and beckons across the street to them.
But when they pass over he turns away, and he speedily loses them
in the crowd. The recognition’s purely spiritual—it isn’t in the least
social. So he leaves all his belongings to other people to take care of.
He accepts favours, loans, sacrifices—all with nothing more deter-
rent than an agony of shame. Fortunately we’re a little faithful band,
and we do what we can.” I held my tongue about the natural chil-
dren, engendered, to the number of three, in the wantonness of his
youth. I only remarked that he did make efforts—often tremen-
dous ones. “But the efforts,” I said, “never come to much: the only
things that come to much are the abandonments, the surrenders.”
“And how much do they come to?”
“You’re right to put it as if we had a big bill to pay, but, as I’ve told
you before, your questions are rather terrible. They come, these mere
exercises of genius, to a great sum total of poetry, of philosophy, a
mighty mass of speculation, notation, quotation. The genius is there,
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you see, to meet the surrender; but there’s no genius to support the
defence.”
“But what is there, after all, at his age, to show?”
“In the way of achievement recognised and reputation established?”
I asked. “To ‘show’ if you will, there isn’t much, since his writing,
mostly, isn’t as fine, isn’t certainly as showy, as his talk. Moreover
two-thirds of his work are merely colossal projects and announce-
ments. ‘Showing’ Frank Saltram is often a poor business,” I went
on: “we endeavoured, you’ll have observed, to show him to-night!
However, if he had lectured he’d have lectured divinely. It would
just have been his talk.”
“And what would his talk just have been?”
I was conscious of some ineffectiveness, as well perhaps as of a
little impatience, as I replied: “The exhibition of a splendid intel-
lect.” My young lady looked not quite satisfied at this, but as I wasn’t
prepared for another question I hastily pursued: “The sight of a
great suspended swinging crystal—huge lucid lustrous, a block of
light—flashing back every impression of life and every possibility of
thought!”
This gave her something to turn over till we had passed out to the
dusky porch of the hall, in front of which the lamps of a quiet
brougham were almost the only thing Saltram’s treachery hadn’t
extinguished. I went with her to the door of her carriage, out of
which she leaned a moment after she had thanked me and taken her
seat. Her smile even in the darkness was pretty. “I do want to see
that crystal!”
“You’ve only to come to the next lecture.”
“I go abroad in a day or two with my aunt.”
“Wait over till next week,” I suggested. “It’s quite worth it.”
She became grave. “Not unless he really comes!” At which the
brougham started off, carrying her away too fast, fortunately for my
manners, to allow me to exclaim “Ingratitude!”
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CHAPTER IV
MRS. SALTRAM made a great affair of her right to be informed where
her husband had been the second evening he failed to meet his au-
dience. She came to me to ascertain, but I couldn’t satisfy her, for in
spite of my ingenuity I remained in ignorance. It wasn’t till much
later that I found this had not been the case with Kent Mulville,
whose hope for the best never twirled the thumbs of him more plac-
idly than when he happened to know the worst. He had known it
on the occasion I speak of—that is immediately after. He was im-
penetrable then, but ultimately confessed. What he confessed was
more than I shall now venture to make public. It was of course
familiar to me that Saltram was incapable of keeping the engage-
ments which, after their separation, he had entered into with regard
to his wife, a deeply wronged, justly resentful, quite irreproachable
and insufferable person. She often appeared at my chambers to talk
over his lapses; for if, as she declared, she had washed her hands of
him, she had carefully preserved the water of this ablution, which
she handed about for analysis. She had arts of her own of exciting
one’s impatience, the most infallible of which was perhaps her as-
sumption that we were kind to her because we liked her. In reality
her personal fall had been a sort of social rise—since I had seen the
moment when, in our little conscientious circle, her desolation al-
most made her the fashion. Her voice was grating and her children
ugly; moreover she hated the good Mulvilles, whom I more and
more loved. They were the people who by doing most for her hus-
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band had in the long run done most for herself; and the warm con-
fidence with which he had laid his length upon them was a pressure
gentle compared with her stiffer persuadability. I’m bound to say he
didn’t criticise his benefactors, though practically he got tired of
them; she, however, had the highest standards about eleemosynary
forms. She offered the odd spectacle of a spirit puffed up by depen-
dence, and indeed it had introduced her to some excellent society.
She pitied me for not knowing certain people who aided her and
whom she doubtless patronised in turn for their luck in not know-
ing me. I dare say I should have got on with her better if she had
had a ray of imagination—if it had occasionally seemed to occur to
her to regard Saltram’s expressions of his nature in any other man-
ner than as separate subjects of woe. They were all flowers of his
character, pearls strung on an endless thread; but she had a stub-
born little way of challenging them one after the other, as if she
never suspected that he had a character, such as it was, or that defi-
ciencies might be organic; the irritating effect of a mind incapable
of a generalisation. One might doubtless have overdone the idea
that there was a general licence for such a man; but if this had hap-
pened it would have been through one’s feeling that there could be
none for such a woman.
I recognised her superiority when I asked her about the aunt of
the disappointed young lady: it sounded like a sentence from an
English-French or other phrase-book. She triumphed in what she
told me and she may have triumphed still more in what she with-
held. My friend of the other evening, Miss Anvoy, had but lately
come to England; Lady Coxon, the aunt, had been established here
for years in consequence of her marriage with the late Sir Gregory
of that name. She had a house in the Regent’s Park, a Bath-chair
and a fernery; and above all she had sympathy. Mrs. Saltram had
made her acquaintance through mutual friends. This vagueness
caused me to feel how much I was out of it and how large an inde-
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pendent circle Mrs. Saltram had at her command. I should have
been glad to know more about the disappointed young lady, but I
felt I should know most by not depriving her of her advantage, as
she might have mysterious means of depriving me of my knowl-
edge. For the present, moreover, this experience was stayed, Lady
Coxon having in fact gone abroad accompanied by her niece. The
niece, besides being immensely clever, was an heiress, Mrs. Saltram
said; the only daughter and the light of the eyes of some great Ameri-
can merchant, a man, over there, of endless indulgences and dol-
lars. She had pretty clothes and pretty manners, and she had, what
was prettier still, the great thing of all. The great thing of all for
Mrs. Saltram was always sympathy, and she spoke as if during the
absence of these ladies she mightn’t know where to turn for it. A few
months later indeed, when they had come back, her tone percepti-
bly changed: she alluded to them, on my leading her up to it, rather
as to persons in her debt for favours received. What had happened I
didn’t know, but I saw it would take only a little more or a little less
to make her speak of them as thankless subjects of social counte-
nance—people for whom she had vainly tried to do something. I
confess I saw how it wouldn’t be in a mere week or two that I should
rid myself of the image of Ruth Anvoy, in whose very name, when I
learnt it, I found something secretly to like. I should probably nei-
ther see her nor hear of her again: the knight’s widow (he had been
mayor of Clockborough) would pass away and the heiress would
return to her inheritance. I gathered with surprise that she had
not communicated to his wife the story of her attempt to hear
Mr..Saltram, and I founded this reticence on the easy supposition
that Mrs. Saltram had fatigued by overpressure the spring of the
sympathy of which she boasted. The girl at any rate would forget
the small adventure, be distracted, take a husband; besides which
she would lack occasion to repeat her experiment.
We clung to the idea of the brilliant course, delivered without an
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accident, that, as a lecturer, would still make the paying public aware
of our great man, but the fact remained that in the case of an inspi-
ration so unequal there was treachery, there was fallacy at least, in
the very conception of a series. In our scrutiny of ways and means
we were inevitably subject to the old convention of the synopsis,
the syllabus, partly of course not to lose the advantage of his grand
free hand in drawing up such things; but for myself I laughed at our
playbills even while I stickled for them. It was indeed amusing work
to be scrupulous for Frank Saltram, who also at moments laughed
about it, so far as the comfort of a sigh so unstudied as to be cheer-
ful might pass for such a sound. He admitted with a candour all his
own that he was in truth only to be depended on in the Mulvilles’
drawing-room. “Yes,” he suggestively allowed, “it’s there, I think,
that I’m at my best; quite late, when it gets toward eleven—and if
I’ve not been too much worried.” We all knew what too much worry
meant; it meant too enslaved for the hour to the superstition of
sobriety. On the Saturdays I used to bring my portmanteau, so as
not to have to think of eleven o’clock trains. I had a bold theory that
as regards this temple of talk and its altars of cushioned chintz, its
pictures and its flowers, its large fireside and clear lamplight, we
might really arrive at something if the Mulvilles would but charge
for admission. Here it was, however, that they shamelessly broke
down; as there’s a flaw in every perfection this was the inexpugnable
refuge of their egotism. They declined to make their saloon a mar-
ket, so that Saltram’s golden words continued the sole coin that
rang there. It can have happened to no man, however, to be paid a
greater price than such an enchanted hush as surrounded him on
his greatest nights. The most profane, on these occasions, felt a pres-
ence; all minor eloquence grew dumb. Adelaide Mulville, for the
pride of her hospitality, anxiously watched the door or stealthily
poked the fire. I used to call it the music-room, for we had antici-
pated Bayreuth. The very gates of the kingdom of light seemed to
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open and the horizon of thought to flash with the beauty of a sun-
rise at sea.
In the consideration of ways and means, the sittings of our little
board, we were always conscious of the creak of Mrs. Saltram’s shoes.
She hovered, she interrupted, she almost presided, the state of affairs
being mostly such as to supply her with every incentive for enquiring
what was to be done next. It was the pressing pursuit of this knowl-
edge that, in concatenations of omnibuses and usually in very wet
weather, led her so often to my door. She thought us spiritless crea-
tures with editors and publishers; but she carried matters to no great
effect when she personally pushed into back-shops. She wanted all
moneys to be paid to herself: they were otherwise liable to such strange
adventures. They trickled away into the desert—they were mainly at
best, alas, a slender stream. The editors and the publishers were the
last people to take this remarkable thinker at the valuation that has
now pretty well come to be established. The former were half-dis-
traught between the desire to “cut” him and the difficulty of finding a
crevice for their shears; and when a volume on this or that portentous
subject was proposed to the latter they suggested alternative titles
which, as reported to our friend, brought into his face the noble blank
melancholy that sometimes made it handsome. The title of an un-
written book didn’t after all much matter, but some masterpiece of
Saltram’s may have died in his bosom of the shudder with which it
was then convulsed. The ideal solution, failing the fee at Kent Mulville’s
door, would have been some system of subscription to projected trea-
tises with their non-appearance provided for—provided for, I mean,
by the indulgence of subscribers. The author’s real misfortune was
that subscribers were so wretchedly literal. When they tastelessly en-
quired why publication hadn’t ensued I was tempted to ask who in
the world had ever been so published. Nature herself had brought
him out in voluminous form, and the money was simply a deposit on
borrowing the work.
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CHAPTER V
I WAS DOUBTLESS often a nuisance to my friends in those years; but
there were sacrifices I declined to make, and I never passed the hat
to George Gravener. I never forgot our little discussion in Ebury
Street, and I think it stuck in my throat to have to treat him to the
avowal I had found so easy to Mss Anvoy. It had cost me nothing to
confide to this charming girl, but it would have cost me much to
confide to the friend of my youth, that the character of the “real
gentleman” wasn’t an attribute of the man I took such pains for.
Was this because I had already generalised to the point of perceiving
that women are really the unfastidious sex?I knew at any rate that
Gravener, already quite in view but still hungry and frugal, had natu-
rally enough more ambition than charity. He had sharp aims for
stray sovereigns, being in view most from the tall steeple of
Clockborough. His immediate ambition was to occupy e lui seul
the field of vision of that smokily-seeing city, and all his movements
and postures were calculated for the favouring angle. The move-
ment of the hand as to the pocket had thus to alternate gracefully
with the posture of the hand on the heart. He talked to Clockborough
in short only less beguilingly than Frank Saltram talked to hiselec-
tors; with the difference to our credit, however, that we had already
voted and that our candidate had no antagonist but himself. He
had more than once been at Wimbledon—it was Mrs. Mulville’s
work not mine—and by the time the claret was served had seen the
god descend. He took more pains to swing his censer than I had
94
expected, but on our way back to town he forestalled any little tri-
umph I might have been so artless as to express by the observation
that such a man was—a hundred times!—a man to use and never a
man to be used by. I remember that this neat remark humiliated me
almost as much as if virtually, in the fever of broken slumbers, I
hadn’t often made it myself. The difference was that on Gravener’s
part a force attached to it that could never attach to it on mine. He
was ABLE to use people—he had the machinery; and the irony of
Saltram’s being made showy at Clockborough came out to me when
he said, as if he had no memory of our original talk and the idea
were quite fresh to him: “I hate his type, you know, but I’ll be hanged
if I don’t put some of those things in. I can find a place for them: we
might even find a place for the fellow himself.” I myself should have
had some fear—not, I need scarcely say, for the “things” themselves,
but for some other things very near them; in fine for the rest of my
eloquence.
Later on I could see that the oracle of Wimbledon was not in this
case so appropriate as he would have been had the polities of the
gods only coincided more exactly with those of the party. There was
a distinct moment when, without saying anything more definite to
me, Gravener entertained the idea of annexing Mr. Saltram. Such a
project was delusive, for the discovery of analogies between his body
of doct ri ne and t hat pressed from headquart ers upon
Clockborough—the bottling, in a word, of the air of those lungs for
convenient public uncorking in corn-exchanges—was an experiment
for which no one had the leisure. The only thing would have been
to carry him massively about, paid, caged, clipped; to turn him on
for a particular occasion in a particular channel. Frank Saltram’s
channel, however, was essentially not calculable, and there was no
knowing what disastrous floods might have ensued. For what there
would have been to do TheEmpire, the great newspaper, was there
to look to; but it was no new misfortune that there were delicate
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situations in which TheEmpirebroke down. In fine there was an
instinctive apprehension that a clever young journalist commissioned
to report on Mr. Saltram might never come back from the errand.
No one knew better than George Gravener that that was a time
when prompt returns counted double. If he therefore found our
friend an exasperating waste of orthodoxy it was because of his be-
ing, as he said, poor Gravener, up in the clouds, not because he was
down in the dust. The man would have been, just as he was, a real
enough gentleman if he could have helped to put in a real gentle-
man. Gravener’s great objection to the actual member was that he
was not one.
Lady Coxon had a fine old house, a house with “grounds,” at
Clockborough, which she had let; but after she returned from abroad
I learned from Mrs. Saltram that the lease had fallen in and that she
had gone down to resume possession. I could see the faded red liv-
ery, the big square shoulders, the high-walled garden of this decent
abode. As the rumble of dissolution grew louder the suitor would
have pressed his suit, and I found myself hoping the politics of the
late Mayor’s widow wouldn’t be such as to admonish her to ask him
to dinner; perhaps indeed I went so far as to pray, they would natu-
rally form a bar to any contact. I tried to focus the many-buttoned
page, in the daily airing, as he perhaps even pushed the Bath-chair
over somebody’s toes. I was destined to hear, none the less, through
Mrs. Saltram—who, I afterwards learned, was in correspondence
with Lady Coxon’s housekeeper—that Gravener was known to have
spoken of the habitation I had in my eye as the pleasantest thing at
Clockborough. On his part, I was sure, this was the voice not of
envy but of experience. The vivid scene was now peopled, and I
could see him in the old-time garden with Miss Anvoy, who would
be certain, and very justly, to think him good-looking. It would be
too much to describe myself as troubled by this play of surmise; but
I occur to remember the relief, singular enough, of feeling it sud-
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denly brushed away by an annoyance really much greater; an an-
noyance the result of its happening to come over me about that
time with a rush that I was simply ashamed of Frank Saltram. There
were limits after all, and my mark at last had been reached.
I had had my disgusts, if I may allow myself to-day such an ex-
pression; but this was a supreme revolt. Certain things cleared up in
my mind, certain values stood out. It was all very well to have an
unfortunate temperament; there was nothing so unfortunate as to
have, for practical purposes, nothing else. I avoided George Gravener
at this moment and reflected that at such a time I should do so most
effectually by leaving England. I wanted to forget Frank Saltram—
that was all. I didn’t want to do anything in the world to him but
that. Indignation had withered on the stalk, and I felt that one could
pity him as much as one ought only by never thinking of him again.
It wasn’t for anything he had done to me; it was for what he had
done to the Mulvilles. Adelaide cried about it for a week, and her
husband, profiting by the example so signally given him of the fatal
effect of a want of character, left the letter, the drop too much, un-
answered. The letter, an incredible one, addressed by Saltram to
Wimbledon during a stay with the Pudneys at Ramsgate, was the
central feature of the incident, which, however, had many features,
each more painful than whichever other we compared it with. The
Pudneys had behaved shockingly, but that was no excuse. Base in-
gratitude, gross indecency—one had one’s choice only of such for-
mulas as that the more they fitted the less they gave one rest. These
are dead aches now, and I am under no obligation, thank heaven, to
be definite about the business. There are things which if I had had
to tell them—well, would have stopped me off here altogether.
I went abroad for the general election, and if I don’t know how
much, on the Continent, I forgot, I at least know how much I missed,
him. At a distance, in a foreign land, ignoring, abjuring, unlearning
him, I discovered what he had done for me. I owed him, oh
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unmistakeably, certain noble conceptions; I had lighted my little
taper at his smoky lamp, and lo it continued to twinkle. But the
light it gave me just showed me how much more I wanted. I was
pursued of course by letters from Mrs. Saltram which I didn’t scruple
not to read, though quite aware her embarrassments couldn’t but be
now of the gravest. I sacrificed to propriety by simply putting them
away, and this is how, one day as my absence drew to an end, my
eye, while I rummaged in my desk for another paper, was caught by
a name on a leaf that had detached itself from the packet. The allu-
sion was to Miss Anvoy, who, it appeared, was engaged to be mar-
ried to Mr. George Gravener; and the news was two months old. A
direct question of Mrs. Saltram’s had thus remained unanswered—
she had enquired of me in a postscript what sort of man this aspir-
ant to such a hand might be. The great other fact about him just
then was that he had been triumphantly returned for Clockborough
in the interest of the party that had swept the country—so that I
might easily have referred Mrs. Saltram to the journals of the day.
Yet when I at last wrote her that I was coming home and would
discharge my accumulated burden by seeing her, I but remarked in
regard to her question that she must really put it to Miss Anvoy.
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CHAPTER VI
I HAD ALMOST AVOIDED the general election, but some of its conse-
quences, on my return, had smartly to be faced. The season, in
London, began to breathe again and to flap its folded wings. Confi-
dence, under the new Ministry, was understood to be reviving, and
one of the symptoms, in a social body, was a recovery of appetite.
People once more fed together, and it happened that, one Saturday
night, at somebody’s house, I fed with George Gravener. When the
ladies left the room I moved up to where he sat and begged to con-
gratulate him. “On my election?” he asked after a moment; so that
I could feign, jocosely, not to have heard of that triumph and to be
alluding to the rumour of a victory still more personal. I dare say I
coloured however, for his political success had momentarily passed
out of my mind. What was present to it was that he was to marry
that beautiful girl; and yet his question made me conscious of some
discomposure—I hadn’t intended to put this before everything. He
himself indeed ought gracefully to have done so, and I remember
thinking the whole man was in this assumption that in expressing
my sense of what he had won I had fixed my thoughts on his “seat.”
We straightened the matter out, and he was so much lighter in hand
than I had lately seen him that his spirits might well have been fed
from a twofold source. He was so good as to say that he hoped I
should soon make the acquaintance of Miss Anvoy, who, with her
aunt, was presently coming up to town. Lady Coxon, in the coun-
try, had been seriously unwell, and this had delayed their arrival. I
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told him I had heard the marriage would be a splendid one; on
which, brightened and humanised by his luck, he laughed and said
“Do you mean for her?” When I had again explained what I meant
he went on: “Oh she’s an American, but you’d scarcely know it;
unless, perhaps,” he added, “by her being used to more money than
most girls in England, even the daughters of rich men. That wouldn’t
in the least do for a fellow like me, you know, if it wasn’t for the
great liberality of her father. He really has been most kind, and
everything’s quite satisfactory.” He added that his eldest brother had
taken a tremendous fancy to her and that during a recent visit at
Coldfield she had nearly won over Lady Maddock. I gathered from
something he dropped later on that the free-handed gentleman be-
yond the seas had not made a settlement, but had given a handsome
present and was apparently to be looked to, across the water, for
other favours. People are simplified alike by great contentments and
great yearnings, and, whether or no it was Gravener’s directness that
begot my own, I seem to recall that in some turn taken by our talk
he almost imposed it on me as an act of decorum to ask if Miss
Anvoy had also by chance expectations from her aunt. My enquiry
drew out that Lady Coxon, who was the oddest of women, would
have in any contingency to act under her late husband’s will, which
was odder still, saddling her with a mass of queer obligations com-
plicated with queer loopholes. There were several dreary people,
Coxon cousins, old maids, to whom she would have more or less to
minister. Gravener laughed, without saying no, when I suggested
that the young lady might come in through a loophole; then sud-
denly, as if he suspected my turning a lantern on him, he declared
quite dryly: “That’s all rot—one’s moved by other springs!”
A fortnight later, at Lady Coxon’s own house, I understood well
enough the springs one was moved by. Gravener had spoken of me
there as an old friend, and I received a gracious invitation to dine.
The Knight’s widow was again indisposed—she had succumbed at
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the eleventh hour; so that I found Miss Anvoy bravely playing host-
ess without even Gravener’s help, since, to make matters worse, he
had just sent up word that the House, the insatiable House, with
which he supposed he had contracted for easier terms, positively
declined to release him. I was struck with the courage, the grace and
gaiety of the young lady left thus to handle the fauna and flora of
the Regent’s Park. I did what I could to help her to classify them,
after I had recovered from the confusion of seeing her slightly dis-
concerted at perceiving in the guest introduced by her intended the
gentleman with whom she had had that talk about Frank Saltram. I
had at this moment my first glimpse of the fact that she was a per-
son who could carry a responsibility; but I leave the reader to judge
of my sense of the aggravation, for either of us, of such a burden,
when I heard the servant announce Mrs. Saltram. From what im-
mediately passed between the two ladies I gathered that the latter
had been sent for post-haste to fill the gap created by the absence of
the mistress of the house. “Good!” I remember crying, “she’ll be put
by me;” and my apprehension was promptly justified. Mrs. Saltram
taken in to dinner, and taken in as a consequence of an appeal to
her amiability, was Mrs. Saltram with a vengeance. I asked myself
what Miss Anvoy meant by doing such things, but the only answer
I arrived at was that Gravener was verily fortunate. She hadn’t hap-
pened to tell him of her visit to Upper Baker Street, but she’d cer-
tainly tell him to-morrow; not indeed that this would make him
like any better her having had the innocence to invite such a person
as Mrs. Saltram on such an occasion. It could only strike me that I
had never seen a young woman put such ignorance into her clever-
ness, such freedom into her modesty; this, I think, was when, after
dinner, she said to me frankly, with almost jubilant mirth: “Oh you
don’t admire Mrs. Saltram?” Why should I?This was truly a young
person without guile. I had briefly to consider before I could reply
that my objection to the lady named was the objection often ut-
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tered about people met at the social board—I knew all her stories.
Then as Miss Anvoy remained momentarily vague I added: “Those
about her husband.”
“Oh yes, but there are some new ones.”
“None for me. Ah novelty would be pleasant!”
“Doesn’t it appear that of late he has been particularly horrid?”
“His fluctuations don’t matter”, I returned, “for at night all cats
are grey. You saw the shade of this one the night we waited for him
together. What will you have?He has no dignity.”
Miss Anvoy, who had been introducing with her American dis-
tinctness, looked encouragingly round at some of the combinations
she had risked. “It’s too bad I can’t see him.”
“You mean Gravener won’t let you?”
“I haven’t asked him. He lets me do everything.”
“But you know he knows him and wonders what some of us see
in him.”
“We haven’t happened to talk of him,” the girl said.
“Get him to take you some day out to see the Mulvilles.”
“I thought Mr. Saltram had thrown the Mulvilles over.”
“Utterly. But that won’t prevent his being planted there again, to
bloom like a rose, within a month or two.”
Miss Anvoy thought a moment. Then, “I should like to see them,”
she said with her fostering smile.
“They’re tremendously worth it. You mustn’t miss them.”
“I’ll make George take me,” she went on as Mrs. Saltram came up
to interrupt us. She sniffed at this unfortunate as kindly as she had
smiled at me and, addressing the question to her, continued: “But
the chance of a lecture—one of the wonderful lectures?Isn’t there
another course announced?”
“Another?There are about thirty!” I exclaimed, turning away and
feeling Mrs. Saltram’s little eyes in my back. A few days after this I
heard that Gravener’s marriage was near at hand—was settled for
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Whitsuntide; but as no invitation had reached me I had my doubts,
and there presently came to me in fact the report of a postpone-
ment. Something was the matter; what was the matter was sup-
posed to be that Lady Coxon was now critically ill. I had called on
her after my dinner in the Regent’s Park, but I had neither seen her
nor seen Miss Anvoy. I forget to-day the exact order in which, at
this period, sundry incidents occurred and the particular stage at
which it suddenly struck me, making me catch my breath a little,
that the progression, the acceleration, was for all the world that of
fine drama. This was probably rather late in the day, and the exact
order doesn’t signify. What had already occurred was some accident
determining a more patient wait. George Gravener, whom I met
again, in fact told me as much, but without signs of perturbation.
Lady Coxon had to be constantly attended to, and there were other
good reasons as well. Lady Coxon had to be so constantly attended
to that on the occasion of a second attempt in the Regent’s Park I
equally failed to obtain a sight of her niece. I judged it discreet in all
the conditions not to make a third; but this didn’t matter, for it was
through Adelaide Mulville that the side-wind of the comedy, though
I was at first unwitting, began to reach me. I went to Wimbledon at
times because Saltram was there, and I went at others because he
wasn’t. The Pudneys, who had taken him to Birmingham, had al-
ready got rid of him, and we had a horrible consciousness of his
wandering roofless, in dishonour, about the smoky Midlands, al-
most as the injured Lear wandered on the storm-lashed heath. His
room, upstairs, had been lately done up (I could hear the crackle of
the new chintz) and the difference only made his smirches and
bruises, his splendid tainted genius, the more tragic. If he wasn’t
barefoot in the mire he was sure to be unconventionally shod. These
were the things Adelaide and I, who were old enough friends to
stare at each other in silence, talked about when we didn’t speak.
When we spoke it was only about the brilliant girl George Gravener
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was to marry and whom he had brought out the other Sunday. I
could see that this presentation had been happy, for Mrs. Mulville
commemorated it after her sole fashion of showing confidence in a
new relation. “She likes me—she likes me”: her native humility ex-
ulted in that measure of success. We all knew for ourselves how she
liked those who liked her, and as regards Ruth Anvoy she was more
easily won over than Lady Maddock.
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CHAPTER VII
ONE OF THE CONSEQUENCES, for the Mulvilles, of the sacrifices they
made for Frank Saltram was that they had to give up their carriage.
Adelaide drove gently into London in a one-horse greenish thing,
an early Victorian landau, hired, near at hand, imaginatively, from a
broken-down jobmaster whose wife was in consumption—a vehicle
that made people turn round all the more when her pensioner sat
beside her in a soft white hat and a shawl, one of the dear woman’s
own. This was his position and I dare say his costume when on an
afternoon in July she went to return Miss Anvoy’s visit. The wheel
of fate had now revolved, and amid silences deep and exhaustive,
compunctions and condonations alike unutterable, Saltram was re-
instated. Was it in pride or in penance that Mrs. Mulville had be-
gun immediately to drive him about?If he was ashamed of his in-
gratitude she might have been ashamed of her forgiveness; but she
was incorrigibly capable of liking him to be conspicuous in the landau
while she was in shops or with her acquaintance. However, if he was
in the pillory for twenty minutes in the Regent’s Park—I mean at
Lady Coxon’s door while his companion paid her call—it wasn’t to
the further humiliation of any one concerned that she presently
came out for him in person, not even to show either of them what a
fool she was that she drew him in to be introduced to the bright
young American. Her account of the introduction I had in its order,
but before that, very late in the season, under Gravener’s auspices, I
met Miss Anvoy at tea at the House of Commons. The member for
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Clockborough had gathered a group of pretty ladies, and the
Mulvilles were not of the party. On the great terrace, as I strolled off
with her a little, the guest of honour immediately exclaimed to me:
“I’ve seen him, you know—I’ve seen him!” She told me about
Saltram’s call.
“And how did you find him?”
“Oh so strange!”
“You didn’t like him?”
“I can’t tell till I see him again.”
“You want to do that?”
She had a pause. “Immensely.”
We went no further; I fancied she had become aware Gravener
was looking at us. She turned back toward the knot of the others,
and I said: “Dislike him as much as you will—I see you’re bitten.”
“Bitten?” I thought she coloured a little.
“Oh it doesn’t matter!” I laughed; “one doesn’t die of it.”
“I hope I shan’t die of anything before I’ve seen more of Mrs.
Mulville.” I rejoiced with her over plain Adelaide, whom she pro-
nounced the loveliest woman she had met in England; but before
we separated I remarked to her that it was an act of mere humanity
to warn her that if she should see more of Frank Saltram—which
would be likely to follow on any increase of acquaintance with Mrs.
Mulville—she might find herself flattening her nose against the clear
hard pane of an eternal question—that of the relative, that of the
opposed, importances of virtue and brains. She replied that this was
surely a subject on which one took everything for granted; where-
upon I admitted that I had perhaps expressed myself ill. What I
referred to was what I had referred to the night we met in Upper
Baker Street—the relative importance (relative to virtue) of other
gifts. She asked me if I called virtue a gift—a thing handed to us in
a parcel on our first birthday; and I declared that this very enquiry
proved to me the problem had already caught her by the skirt. She
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would have help however, the same help I myself had once had, in
resisting its tendency to make one cross.
“What help do you mean?”
“That of the member for Clockborough.”
She stared, smiled, then returned: “Why my idea has been to help
him!”
She had helped him—I had his own word for it that at Clockborough
her bedevilment of the voters had really put him in. She would do so
doubtless again and again, though I heard the very next month that this
fine faculty had undergone a temporary eclipse. News of the catastro-
phe first came to me from Mrs. Saltram, and it was afterwards con-
firmed at Wimbledon: poor Miss Anvoy was in trouble—great disas-
ters in America had suddenly summoned her home. Her father, in New
York, had suffered reverses, lost so much money that it was really vexa-
tious as showing how much he had had. It was Adelaide who told me
she had gone off alone at less than a week’s notice.
“Alone?Gravener has permitted that?”
“What will you have?The House of Commons!”
I’m afraid I cursed the House of Commons: I was so much inter-
ested. Of course he’d follow her as soon as he was free to make her
his wife; only she mightn’t now be able to bring him anything like
the marriage-portion of which he had begun by having the virtual
promise. Mrs. Mulville let me know what was already said: she was
charming, this American girl, but really these American fathers—!
What was a man to do?Mr. Saltram, according to Mrs. Mulville,
was of opinion that a man was never to suffer his relation to money
to become a spiritual relation—he was to keep it exclusively mate-
rial. “Moi pas comprendre!” I commented on this; in rejoinder to
which Adelaide, with her beautiful sympathy, explained that she
supposed he simply meant that the thing was to use it, don’t you
know?but not to think too much about it. “To take it, but not to
thank you for it?” I still more profanely enquired. For a quarter of
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an hour afterwards she wouldn’t look at me, but this didn’t prevent
my asking her what had been the result, that afternoon—in the
Regent’s Park, of her taking our friend to see Miss Anvoy.
“Oh so charming!” she answered, brightening. “He said he
recognised in her a nature he could absolutely trust.”
“Yes, but I’m speaking of the effect on herself.”
Mrs. Mulville had to remount the stream. “It was everything one
could wish.”
Something in her tone made me laugh. “Do you mean she gave
him—a dole?”
“Well, since you ask me!”
“Right there on the spot?”
Again poor Adelaide faltered. “It was to me of course she gave it.”
I stared; somehow I couldn’t see the scene. “Do you mean a sum
of money?”
“It was very handsome.” Now at last she met my eyes, though I
could see it was with an effort. “Thirty pounds.”
“Straight out of her pocket?”
“Out of the drawer of a table at which she had been writing. She
just slipped the folded notes into my hand. He wasn’t looking; it
was while he was going back to the carriage.” “Oh,” said Adelaide
reassuringly, “I take care of it for him!” The dear practical soul
thought my agitation, for I confess I was agitated, referred to the
employment of the money. Her disclosure made me for a moment
muse violently, and I dare say that during that moment I wondered
if anything else in the world makes people so gross as unselfishness.
I uttered, I suppose, some vague synthetic cry, for she went on as if
she had had a glimpse of my inward amaze at such passages. “I
assure you, my dear friend, he was in one of his happy hours.”
But I wasn’t thinking of that. “Truly indeed these Americans!” I
said. “With her father in the very act, as it were, of swindling her
betrothed!”
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Mrs. Mulville stared. “Oh I suppose Mr. Anvoy has scarcely gone
bankrupt—or whatever he has done—on purpose. Very likely they
won’t be able to keep it up, but there it was, and it was a very beau-
tiful impulse.”
“You say Saltram was very fine?”
“Beyond everything. He surprised even me.”
“And I know what you’veenjoyed.” After a moment I added: “Had
he peradventure caught a glimpse of the money in the table-drawer?”
At this my companion honestly flushed. “How can you be so
cruel when you know how little he calculates?”
“Forgive me, I do know it. But you tell me things that act on my
nerves. I’m sure he hadn’t caught a glimpse of anything but some
splendid idea.”
Mrs. Mulville brightly concurred. “And perhaps even of her beau-
tiful listening face.”
“Perhaps even! And what was it all about?”
“His talk?It was apropos of her engagement, which I had told
him about: the idea of marriage, the philosophy, the poetry, the
sublimity of it.” It was impossible wholly to restrain one’s mirth at
this, and some rude ripple that I emitted again caused my compan-
ion to admonish me. “It sounds a little stale, but you know his
freshness.”
“Of illustration?Indeed I do!”
“And how he has always been right on that great question.”
“On what great question, dear lady, hasn’t he been right?”
“Of what other great men can you equally say it?—and that he
has never, but never, had a deflexion?” Mrs. Mulville exultantly de-
manded.
I tried to think of some other great man, but I had to give it up.
“Didn’t Miss Anvoy express her satisfaction in any less diffident way
than by her charming present?” I was reduced to asking instead.
“Oh yes, she overflowed to me on the steps while he was getting
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into the carriage.” These words somehow brushed up a picture of
Saltram’s big shawled back as he hoisted himself into the green
landau. “She said she wasn’t disappointed,” Adelaide pursued.
I turned it over. “Did he wear his shawl?”
“His shawl?” She hadn’t even noticed.
“I mean yours.”
“He looked very nice, and you know he’s really clean. Miss Anvoy
used such a remarkable expression—she said his mind’s like a crys-
tal!”
I pricked up my ears. “A crystal?”
“Suspended in the moral world—swinging and shining and flash-
ing there. She’s monstrously clever, you know.”
I thought again. “Monstrously!”
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CHAPTER VIII
GEORGE GRAVENER didn’t follow her, for late in September, after the
House had risen, I met him in a railway-carriage. He was coming
up from Scotland and I had just quitted some relations who lived
near Durham. The current of travel back to London wasn’t yet strong;
at any rate on entering the compartment I found he had had it for
some time to himself. We fared in company, and though he had a
blue-book in his lap and the open jaws of his bag threatened me
with the white teeth of confused papers, we inevitably, we even at
last sociably conversed. I saw things weren’t well with him, but I
asked no question till something dropped by himself made, as it
had made on another occasion, an absence of curiosity invidious.
He mentioned that he was worried about his good old friend Lady
Coxon, who, with her niece likely to be detained some time in
America, lay seriously ill at Clockborough, much on his mind and
on his hands.
“Ah Miss Anvoy’s in America?”
“Her father has got into horrid straits—has lost no end of money.”
I waited, after expressing due concern, but I eventually said: “I hope
that raises no objection to your marriage.”
“None whatever; moreover it’s my trade to meet objections. But it
may create tiresome delays, of which there have been too many, from
various causes, already. Lady Coxon got very bad, then she got much
better. Then Mr. Anvoy suddenly began to totter, and now he seems
quite on his back. I’m afraid he’s really in for some big reverse. Lady
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Coxon’s worse again, awfully upset by the news from America, and she
sends me word that she must have Ruth. How can I supply her with
Ruth?I haven’t got Ruth myself!”
“Surely you haven’t lost her?” I returned.
“She’s everything to her wretched father. She writes me every post—
telling me to smooth her aunt’s pillow. I’ve other things to smooth;
but the old lady, save for her servants, is really alone. She won’t receive
her Coxon relations—she’s angry at so much of her money going to
them. Besides, she’s hopelessly mad,” said Gravener very frankly.
I don’t remember whether it was this, or what it was, that made me
ask if she hadn’t such an appreciation of Mrs. Saltram as might render
that active person of some use.
He gave me a cold glance, wanting to know what had put Mrs.
Saltram into my head, and I replied that she was unfortunately never
out of it. I happened to remember the wonderful accounts she had
given me of the kindness Lady Coxon had shown her. Gravener
declared this to be false; Lady Coxon, who didn’t care for her, hadn’t
seen her three times. The only foundation for it was that Miss Anvoy,
who used, poor girl, to chuck money about in a manner she must
now regret, had for an hour seen in the miserable woman—you
could never know what she’d see in people—an interesting pretext
for the liberality with which her nature overflowed. But even Miss
Anvoy was now quite tired of her. Gravener told me more about the
crash in New York and the annoyance it had been to him, and we
also glanced here and there in other directions; but by the time we
got to Doncaster the principal thing he had let me see was that he
was keeping something back. We stopped at that station, and, at the
carriage-door, some one made a movement to get in. Gravener ut-
tered a sound of impatience, and I felt sure that but for this I should
have had the secret. Then the intruder, for some reason, spared us
his company; we started afresh, and my hope of a disclosure re-
turned. My companion held his tongue, however, and I pretended
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to go to sleep; in fact I really dozed for discouragement. When I
reopened my eyes he was looking at me with an injured air. He
tossed away with some vivacity the remnant of a cigarette and then
said: “If you’re not too sleepy I want to put you a case.” I answered
that I’d make every effort to attend, and welcomed the note of in-
terest when he went on: “As I told you a while ago, Lady Coxon,
poor dear, is demented.” His tone had much behind it—was full of
promise. I asked if her ladyship’s misfortune were a trait of her malady
or only of her character, and he pronounced it a product of both.
The case he wanted to put to me was a matter on which it con-
cerned him to have the impression—the judgement, he might also
say—of another person. “I mean of the average intelligent man, but
you see I take what I can get.” There would be the technical, the
strictly legal view; then there would be the way the question would
strike a man of the world. He had lighted another cigarette while he
talked, and I saw he was glad to have it to handle when he brought
out at last, with a laugh slightly artificial: “In fact it’s a subject on
which Miss Anvoy and I are pulling different ways.”
“And you want me to decide between you?I decide in advance for
Miss Anvoy.”
“In advance—that’s quite right. That’s how I decided when I pro-
posed to her. But my story will interest you only so far as your mind
isn’t made up.” Gravener puffed his cigarette a minute and then
continued: “Are you familiar with the idea of the Endowment of
Research?”
“Of Research?” I was at sea a moment.
“I give you Lady Coxon’s phrase. She has it on the brain.”
“She wishes to endow—?”
“Some earnest and ‘loyal’ seeker,” Gravener said. “It was a sketchy
design of her late husband’s, and he handed it on to her; setting
apart in his will a sum of money of which she was to enjoy the
interest for life, but of which, should she eventually see her oppor-
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tunity—the matter was left largely to her discretion—she would
best honour his memory by determining the exemplary public use.
This sum of money, no less than thirteen thousand pounds, was to
be called The Coxon Fund; and poor Sir Gregory evidently pro-
posed to himself that The Coxon Fund should cover his name with
glory—be universally desired and admired. He left his wife a full
declaration of his views, so far at least as that term may be applied to
views vitiated by a vagueness really infantine. A little learning’s a
dangerous thing, and a good citizen who happens to have been an
ass is worse for a community than bad sewerage. He’s worst of all
when he’s dead, because then he can’t be stopped. However, such as
they were, the poor man’s aspirations are now in his wife’s bosom,
or fermenting rather in her foolish brain: it lies with her to carry
them out. But of course she must first catch her hare.”
“Her earnest loyal seeker?”
“The flower that blushes unseen for want of such a pecuniary
independence as may aid the light that’s in it to shine upon the
human race. The individual, in a word, who, having the rest of the
machinery, the spiritual, the intellectual, is most hampered in his
search.”
“His search for what?”
“For Moral Truth. That’s what Sir Gregory calls it.”
I burst out laughing. “Delightful munificent Sir Gregory! It’s a
charming idea.”
“So Miss Anvoy thinks.”
“Has she a candidate for the Fund?”
“Not that I know of—and she’s perfectly reasonable about it. But
Lady Coxon has put the matter before her, and we’ve naturally had
a lot of talk.”
“Talk that, as you’ve so interestingly intimated, has landed you in
a disagreement.”
“She considers there’s something in it,” Gravener said.
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“And you consider there’s nothing?”
“It seems to me a piece of solemn twaddle—which can’t fail to be
attended with consequences certainly grotesque and possibly im-
moral. To begin with, fancy constituting an endowment without
establishing a tribunal—a bench of competent people, of judges.”
“The sole tribunal is Lady Coxon?”
“And any one she chooses to invite.”
“But she has invited you,” I noted.
“I’m not competent—I hate the thing. Besides, she hasn’t,” my
friend went on. “The real history of the matter, I take it, is that the
inspiration was originally Lady Coxon’s own, that she infected him
with it, and that the flattering option left her is simply his tribute to
her beautiful, her aboriginal enthusiasm. She came to England forty
years ago, a thin transcendental Bostonian, and even her odd happy
frumpy Clockborough marriage never really materialised her. She
feels indeed that she has become very British—as if that, as a pro-
cess, as a ‘Werden,’ as anything but an original sign of grace, were
conceivable; but it’s precisely what makes her cling to the notion of
the ‘Fund’—cling to it as to a link with the ideal.”
“How can she cling if she’s dying?”
“Do you mean how can she act in the matter?” Gravener asked. “That’s
precisely the question. She can’t! As she has never yet caught her hare,
never spied out her lucky impostor—how should she, with the life she
has led?—her husband’s intention has come very near lapsing. His idea,
to do him justice, was that it should lapse if exactly the right person, the
perfect mixture of genius and chill penury, should fail to turn up. Ah the
poor dear woman’s very particular—she says there must be no mistake.”
I found all this quite thrilling—I took it in with avidity. “And if
she dies without doing anything, what becomes of the money?” I
demanded.
“It goes back to his family, if she hasn’t made some other disposi-
tion of it.”
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“She may do that then—she may divert it?”
“Her hands are not tied. She has a grand discretion. The proof is
that three months ago she offered to make the proceeds over to her
niece.”
“For Miss Anvoy’s own use?”
“For Miss Anvoy’s own use—on the occasion of her prospective
marriage. She was discouraged—the earnest seeker required so ear-
nest a search. She was afraid of making a mistake; every one she could
think of seemed either not earnest enough or not poor enough. On
the receipt of the first bad news about Mr. Anvoy’s affairs she pro-
posed to Ruth to make the sacrifice for her. As the situation in New
York got worse she repeated her proposal.”
“Which Miss Anvoy declined?”
“Except as a formal trust.”
“You mean except as committing herself legally to place the
money?”
“On the head of the deserving object, the great man frustrated,”
said Gravener. “She only consents to act in the spirit of Sir Gregory’s
scheme.”
“And you blame her for that?” I asked with some intensity.
My tone couldn’t have been harsh, but he coloured a little and
there was a queer light in his eye. “My dear fellow, if I ‘blamed’ the
young lady I’m engaged to I shouldn’t immediately say it even to so
old a friend as you.” I saw that some deep discomfort, some restless
desire to be sided with, reassuringly, approvingly mirrored, had been
at the bottom of his drifting so far, and I was genuinely touched by
his confidence. It was inconsistent with his habits; but being troubled
about a woman was not, for him, a habit: that itself was an inconsis-
tency. George Gravener could stand straight enough before any other
combination of forces. It amused me to think that the combination
he had succumbed to had an American accent, a transcendental
aunt and an insolvent father; but all my old loyalty to him mustered
116
to meet this unexpected hint that I could help him. I saw that I
could from the insincere tone in which he pursued: “I’ve criticised
her of course, I’ve contended with her, and it has been great fun.”
Yet it clearly couldn’t have been such great fun as to make it im-
proper for me presently to ask if Miss Anvoy had nothing at all
settled on herself. To this he replied that she had only a trifle from
her mother—a mere four hundred a year, which was exactly why it
would be convenient to him that she shouldn’t decline, in the face
of this total change in her prospects, an accession of income which
would distinctly help them to marry. When I enquired if there were
no other way in which so rich and so affectionate an aunt could
cause the weight of her benevolence to be felt, he answered that
Lady Coxon was affectionate indeed, but was scarcely to be called
rich. She could let her project of the Fund lapse for her niece’s ben-
efit, but she couldn’t do anything else. She had been accustomed to
regard her as tremendously provided for, and she was up to her eyes
in promises to anxious Coxons. She was a woman of an inordinate
conscience, and her conscience was now a distress to her, hovering
round her bed in irreconcilable forms of resentful husbands, por-
tionless nieces and undiscoverable philosophers.
We were by this time getting into the whirr of fleeting platforms,
the multiplication of lights. “I think you’ll find,” I said with a laugh,
“that your predicament will disappear in the very fact that the phi-
losopher is undiscoverable.”
He began to gather up his papers. “Who can set a limit to the
ingenuity of an extravagant woman?”
“Yes, after all, who indeed?” I echoed as I recalled the extrava-
gance commemorated in Adelaide’s anecdote of Miss Anvoy and
the thirty pounds.
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CHAPTER IX
THE THING I had been most sensible of in that talk with George
Gravener was the way Saltram’s name kept out of it. It seemed to me
at the time that we were quite pointedly silent about him; but after-
wards it appeared more probable there had been on my companion’s
part no conscious avoidance. Later on I was sure of this, and for the
best of reasons—the simple reason of my perceiving more com-
pletely that, for evil as well as for good, he said nothing to Gravener’s
imagination. That honest man didn’t fear him—he was too much
disgusted with him. No more did I, doubtless, and for very much
the same reason. I treated my friend’s story as an absolute confi-
dence; but when before Christmas, by Mrs. Saltram, I was informed
of Lady Coxon’s death without having had news of Miss Anvoy’s
return, I found myself taking for granted we should hear no more
of these nuptials, in which, as obscurely unnatural, I now saw I had
never too disconcertedly believed. I began to ask myself how people
who suited each other so little could please each other so much. The
charm was some material charm, some afffinity, exquisite doubt-
less, yet superficial some surrender to youth and beauty and pas-
sion, to force and grace and fortune, happy accidents and easy con-
tacts. They might dote on each other’s persons, but how could they
know each other’s souls?How could they have the same prejudices,
how could they have the same horizon?Such questions, I confess,
seemed quenched but not answered when, one day in February,
going out to Wimbledon, I found our young lady in the house. A
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passion that had brought her back across the wintry ocean was as
much of a passion as was needed. No impulse equally strong indeed
had drawn George Gravener to America; a circumstance on which,
however, I reflected only long enough to remind myself that it was
none of my business. Ruth Anvoy was distinctly different, and I felt
that the difference was not simply that of her marks of mourning.
Mrs. Mulville told me soon enough what it was: it was the differ-
ence between a handsome girl with large expectations and a hand-
some girl with only four hundred a year. This explanation indeed
didn’t wholly content me, not even when I learned that her mourn-
ing had a double cause—learned that poor Mr. Anvoy, giving way
altogether, buried under the ruins of his fortune and leaving next to
nothing, had died a few weeks before.
“So she has come out to marry George Gravener?” I commented.
“Wouldn’t it have been prettier of him to have saved her the trouble?”
“Hasn’t the House just met?” Adelaide replied. “And for Mr.
Gravener the House—!” Then she added: “I gather that her having
come is exactly a sign that the marriage is a little shaky. If it were
quite all right a self-respecting girl like Ruth would have waited for
him over there.”
I noted that they were already Ruth and Adelaide, but what I said
was: “Do you mean she’ll have had to return to makeit so?”
“No, I mean that she must have come out for some reason inde-
pendent of it.” Adelaide could only surmise, however, as yet, and
there was more, as we found, to be revealed. Mrs. Mulville, on hear-
ing of her arrival, had brought the young lady out in the green landau
for the Sunday. The Coxons were in possession of the house in
Regent’s Park, and Miss Anvoy was in dreary lodgings. George
Gravener had been with her when Adelaide called, but had assented
graciously enough to the little visit at Wimbledon. The carriage,
with Mr. Saltram in it but not mentioned, had been sent off on
some errand from which it was to return and pick the ladies up.
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Gravener had left them together, and at the end of an hour, on the
Saturday afternoon, the party of three had driven out to Wimbledon.
This was the girl’s second glimpse of our great man, and I was inter-
ested in asking Mrs. Mulville if the impression made by the first
appeared to have been confirmed. On her replying after consider-
ation, that of course with time and opportunity it couldn’t fail to
be, but that she was disappointed, I was sufficiently struck with her
use of this last word to question her further.
“Do you mean you’re disappointed because you judge Miss Anvoy
to be?”
“Yes; I hoped for a greater effect last evening. We had two or three
people, but he scarcely opened his mouth.”
“He’ll be all the better to-night,” I opined after a moment. Then
I pursued: “What particular importance do you attach to the idea
of her being impressed?”
Adelaide turned her mild pale eyes on me as for rebuke of my
levity. “Why the importance of her being as happy as weare!”
I’m afraid that at this my levity grew. “Oh that’s a happiness al-
most too great to wish a person!” I saw she hadn’t yet in her mind
what I had in mine, and at any rate the visitor’s actual bliss was
limited to a walk in the garden with Kent Mulville. Later in the
afternoon I also took one, and I saw nothing of Miss Anvoy till
dinner, at which we failed of the company of Saltram, who had
caused it to be reported that he was indisposed and lying down.
This made us, most of us—for there were other friends present—
convey to each other in silence some of the unutterable things that
in those years our eyes had inevitably acquired the art of expressing.
If a fine little American enquirer hadn’t been there we would have
expressed them otherwise, and Adelaide would have pretended not
to hear. I had seen her, before the very fact, abstract herself nobly;
and I knew that more than once, to keep it from the servants, man-
aging, dissimulating cleverly, she had helped her husband to carry
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him bodily to his room. Just recently he had been so wise and so
deep and so high that I had begun to get nervous—to wonder if by
chance there were something behind it, if he were kept straight for
instance by the knowledge that the hated Pudneys would have more
to tell us if they chose. He was lying low, but unfortunately it was
common wisdom with us in this connexion that the biggest splashes
took place in the quietest pools. We should have had a merry life
indeed if all the splashes had sprinkled us as refreshingly as the wa-
ters we were even then to feel about our ears. Kent Mulville had
been up to his room, but had come back with a face that told as few
tales as I had seen it succeed in telling on the evening I waited in the
lecture-room with Miss Anvoy. I said to myself that our friend had
gone out, but it was a comfort that the presence of a comparative
stranger deprived us of the dreary duty of suggesting to each other,
in respect of his errand, edifying possibilities in which we didn’t
ourselves believe. At ten o’clock he came into the drawing-room
with his waistcoat much awry but his eyes sending out great signals.
It was precisely with his entrance that I ceased to be vividly con-
scious of him. I saw that the crystal, as I had called it, had begun to
swing, and I had need of my immediate attention for Miss Anvoy.
Even when I was told afterwards that he had, as we might have
said to-day, broken the record, the manner in which that attention
had been rewarded relieved me of a sense of loss. I had of course a
perfect general consciousness that something great was going on: it
was a little like having been etherised to hear Herr Joachim play.
The old music was in the air; I felt the strong pulse of thought, the
sink and swell, the flight, the poise, the plunge; but I knew some-
thing about one of the listeners that nobody else knew, and Saltram’s
monologue could reach me only through that medium. To this hour
I’m of no use when, as a witness, I’m appealed to—for they still
absurdly contend about it—as to whether or no on that historic
night he was drunk; and my position is slightly ridiculous, for I’ve
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Henry James
never cared to tell them what it really was I was taken up with.
What I got out of it is the only morsel of the total experience that is
quite my own. The others were shared, but this is incommunicable.
I feel that now, I’m bound to say, even in thus roughly evoking the
occasion, and it takes something from my pride of clearness. How-
ever, I shall perhaps be as clear as is absolutely needful if I remark
that our young lady was too much given up to her own intensity of
observation to be sensible of mine. It was plainly not the question
of her marriage that had brought her back. I greatly enjoyed this
discovery and was sure that had that question alone been involved
she would have stirred no step. In this case doubtless Gravener would,
in spite of the House of Commons, have found means to rejoin her.
It afterwards made me uncomfortable for her that, alone in the lodg-
ing Mrs. Mulville had put before me as dreary, she should have in any
degree the air of waiting for her fate; so that I was presently relieved at
hearing of her having gone to stay at Coldfield. If she was in England
at all while the engagement stood the only proper place for her was
under Lady Maddock’s wing. Now that she was unfortunate and rela-
tively poor, perhaps her prospective sister-in-law would be wholly
won over.
There would be much to say, if I had space, about the way her
behaviour, as I caught gleams of it, ministered to the image that had
taken birth in my mind, to my private amusement, while that other
night I listened to George Gravener in the railway-carriage. I watched
her in the light of this queer possibility—a formidable thing cer-
tainly to meet—and I was aware that it coloured, extravagantly per-
haps, my interpretation of her very looks and tones. At Wimbledon
for instance it had appeared to me she was literally afraid of Saltram,
in dread of a coercion that she had begun already to feel. I had come
up to town with her the next day and had been convinced that,
though deeply interested, she was immensely on her guard. She
would show as little as possible before she should be ready to show
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everything. What this final exhibition might be on the part of a girl
perceptibly so able to think things out I found it great sport to fore-
cast. It would have been exciting to be approached by her, appealed
to by her for advice; but I prayed to heaven I mightn’t find myself in
such a predicament. If there was really a present rigour in the situa-
tion of which Gravener had sketched for me the elements, she would
have to get out of her difficulty by herself. It wasn’t I who had
launched her and it wasn’t I who could help her. I didn’t fail to ask
myself why, since I couldn’t help her, I should think so much about
her. It was in part my suspense that was responsible for this; I waited
impatiently to see whether she wouldn’t have told Mrs. Mulville a
portion at least of what I had learned from Gravener. But I saw Mrs.
Mulville was still reduced to wonder what she had come out again
for if she hadn’t come as a conciliatory bride. That she had come in
some other character was the only thing that fitted all the appear-
ances. Having for family reasons to spend some time that spring in
the west of England, I was in a manner out of earshot of the great
oceanic rumble—I mean of the continuous hum of Saltram’s
thought—and my uneasiness tended to keep me quiet. There was
something I wanted so little to have to say that my prudence sur-
mounted my curiosity. I only wondered if Ruth Anvoy talked over
the idea of The Coxon Fund with Lady Maddock, and also some-
what why I didn’t hear from Wimbledon. I had a reproachful note
about something or other from Mrs. Saltram, but it contained no
mention of Lady Coxon’s niece, on whom her eyes had been much
less fixed since the recent untoward events.
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Henry James
CHAPTER X
POOR ADELAIDE’S SILENCE was fully explained later—practically ex-
plained when in June, returning to London, I was honoured by this
admirable woman with an early visit. As soon as she arrived I guessed
everything, and as soon as she told me that darling Ruth had been
in her house nearly a month I had my question ready. “What in the
name of maidenly modesty is she staying in England for?”
“Because she loves me so!” cried Adelaide gaily. But she hadn’t come
to see me only to tell me Miss Anvoy loved her: that was quite suffi-
ciently established, and what was much more to the point was that
Mr. Gravener had now raised an objection to it. He had protested at
least against her being at Wimbledon, where in the innocence of his
heart he had originally brought her himself; he called on her to put an
end to their engagement in the only proper, the only happy manner.
“And why in the world doesn’t she do do?” I asked.
Adelaide had a pause. “She says you know.”
Then on my also hesitating she added: “A condition he makes.”
“The Coxon Fund?” I panted.
“He has mentioned to her his having told you about it.”
“Ah but so little! Do you mean she has accepted the trust?”
“In the most splendid spirit—as a duty about which there can be
no two opinions.” To which my friend added: “Of course she’s think-
ing of Mr. Saltram.”
I gave a quick cry at this, which, in its violence, made my visitor
turn pale. “How very awful!”
124
“Awful?”
“Why, to have anything to do with such an idea one’s self.”
“I’m sure you needn’t!” and Mrs. Mulville tossed her head.
“He isn’t good enough!” I went on; to which she opposed a sound
almost as contentious as my own had been. This made me, with
genuine immediate horror, exclaim: “You haven’t influenced her, I
hope!” and my emphasis brought back the blood with a rush to
poor Adelaide’s face. She declared while she blushed—for I had
frightened her again—that she had never influenced anybody and
that the girl had only seen and heard and judged for herself. Hehad
influenced her, if I would, as he did every one who had a soul: that
word, as we knew, even expressed feebly the power of the things he
said to haunt the mind. How could she, Adelaide, help it if Miss
Anvoy’s mind was haunted?I demanded with a groan what right a
pretty girl engaged to a rising M.P. had to havea mind; but the only
explanation my bewildered friend could give me was that she was so
clever. She regarded Mr. Saltram naturally as a tremendous force for
good. She was intelligent enough to understand him and generous
enough to admire.
“She’s many things enough, but is she, among them, rich enough?”
I demanded. “Rich enough, I mean, to sacrifice such a lot of good
money?”
“That’s for herself to judge. Besides, it’s not her own money; she
doesn’t in the least consider it so.”
“And Gravener does, if not hisown; and that’s the whole diffi-
culty?”
“The difficulty that brought her back, yes: she had absolutely to
see her poor aunt’s solicitor. It’s clear that by Lady Coxon’s will she
may have the money, but it’s still clearer to her conscience that the
original condition, definite, intensely implied on her uncle’s part, is
attached to the use of it. She can only take one view of it. It’s for the
Endowment or it’s for nothing.”
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Henry James
“The Endowment,” I permitted myself to observe, “is a concep-
tion superficially sublime, but fundamentally ridiculous.”
“Are you repeating Mr. Gravener’s words?” Adelaide asked.
“Possibly, though I’ve not seen him for months. It’s simply the
way it strikes me too. It’s an old wife’s tale. Gravener made some
reference to the legal aspect, but such an absurdly loose arrange-
ment has no legal aspect.”
“Ruth doesn’t insist on that,” said Mrs. Mulville; “and it’s, for her,
exactly this technical weakness that constitutes the force of the moral
obligation.”
“Are you repeating her words?” I enquired. I forget what else
Adelaide said, but she said she was magnificent. I thought of George
Gravener confronted with such magnificence as that, and I asked
what could have made two such persons ever suppose they under-
stood each other. Mrs. Mulville assured me the girl loved him as
such a woman could love and that she suffered as such a woman
could suffer. Nevertheless she wanted to see me. At this I sprang up
with a groan. “Oh I’m so sorry!—when?” Small though her sense of
humour, I think Adelaide laughed at my sequence. We discussed
the day, the nearest it would be convenient I should come out; but
before she went I asked my visitor how long she had been acquainted
with these prodigies.
“For several weeks, but I was pledged to secrecy.”
“And that’s why you didn’t write?”
“I couldn’t very well tell you she was with me without telling you
that no time had even yet been fixed for her marriage. And I couldn’t
very well tell you as much as that without telling you what I knew
of the reason of it. It was not till a day or two ago,” Mrs. Mulville
went on, “that she asked me to ask you if you wouldn’t come and see
her. Then at last she spoke of your knowing about the idea of the
Endowment.”
I turned this over. “Why on earth does she want to see me?”
126
“To talk with you, naturally, about Mr. Saltram.”
“As a subject for the prize?” This was hugely obvious, and I pres-
ently returned: “I think I’ll sail to-morrow for Australia.”
“Well then—sail!” said Mrs. Mulville, getting up.
But I frivolously, continued. “On Thursday at five, we said?” The
appointment was made definite and I enquired how, all this time,
the unconscious candidate had carried himself.
“In perfection, really, by the happiest of chances: he has positively
been a dear. And then, as to what we revere him for, in the most
wonderful form. His very highest—pure celestial light. You won’t
do him an ill turn?” Adelaide pleaded at the door.
“What danger can equal for him the danger to which he’s ex-
posed from himself?” I asked. “Look out sharp, if he has lately been
too prim. He’ll presently take a day off, treat us to some exhibition
that will make an Endowment a scandal.”
“A scandal?” Mrs. Mulville dolorously echoed.
“Is Miss Anvoy prepared for that?”
My visitor, for a moment, screwed her parasol into my carpet.
“He grows bigger every day.”
“So do you!” I laughed as she went off.
That girl at Wimbledon, on the Thursday afternoon, more than
justified my apprehensions. I recognised fully now the cause of the
agitation she had produced in me from the first—the faint fore-
knowledge that there was something very stiff I should have to do
for her. I felt more than ever committed to my fate as, standing
before her in the big drawing-room where they had tactfully left us
to ourselves, I tried with a smile to string together the pearls of
lucidity which, from her chair, she successively tossed me. Pale and
bright, in her monotonous mourning, she was an image of intelli-
gent purpose, of the passion of duty; but I asked myself whether
any girl had ever had so charming an instinct as that which permit-
ted her to laugh out, as for the joy of her difficulty, into the priggish
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Henry James
old room. This remarkable young woman could be earnest without
being solemn, and at moments when I ought doubtless to have cursed
her obstinacy I found myself watching the unstudied play of her
eyebrows or the recurrence of a singularly intense whiteness pro-
duced by the parting of her lips. These aberrations, I hasten to add,
didn’t prevent my learning soon enough why she had wished to see
me. Her reason for this was as distinct as her beauty: it was to make
me explain what I had meant, on the occasion of our first meeting,
by Mr. Saltram’s want of dignity. It wasn’t that she couldn’t imagine,
but she desired it there from my lips. What she really desired of
course was to know whether there was worse about him than what
she had found out for herself. She hadn’t been a month so much in
the house with him without discovering that he wasn’t a man of
monumental bronze. He was like a jelly minus its mould, he had to
be embanked; and that was precisely the source of her interest in
him and the ground of her project. She put her project boldly be-
fore me: there it stood in its preposterous beauty. She was as willing
to take the humorous view of it as I could be: the only difference
was that for her the humorous view of a thing wasn’t necessarily
prohibitive, wasn’t paralysing.
Moreover she professed that she couldn’t discuss with me the pri-
mary question—the moral obligation: that was in her own breast.
There were things she couldn’t go into—injunctions, impressions
she had received. They were a part of the closest intimacy of her
intercourse with her aunt, they were absolutely clear to her; and on
questions of delicacy, the interpretation of a fidelity, of a promise,
one had always in the last resort to make up one’s mind for one’s
self. It was the idea of the application to the particular case, such a
splendid one at last, that troubled her, and she admitted that it stirred
very deep things. She didn’t pretend that such a responsibility was a
simple matter; if it had been she wouldn’t have attempted to saddle
me with any portion of it. The Mulvilles were sympathy itself, but
128
were they absolutely candid?Could they indeed be, in their posi-
tion—would it even have been to be desired?Yes, she had sent for
me to ask no less than that of me—whether there was anything
dreadful kept back. She made no allusion whatever to George
Gravener—I thought her silence the only good taste and her gaiety
perhaps a part of the very anxiety of that discretion, the effect of a
determination that people shouldn’t know from herself that her re-
lations with the man she was to marry were strained. All the weight,
however, that she left me to throw was a sufficient implication of
the weight HE had thrown in vain. Oh she knew the question of
character was immense, and that one couldn’t entertain any plan for
making merit comfortable without running the gauntlet of that ter-
rible procession of interrogation-points which, like a young ladies’
school out for a walk, hooked their uniform noses at the tail of
governess Conduct. But were we absolutely to hold that there was
never, never, never an exception, never, never, never an occasion for
liberal acceptance, for clever charity, for suspended pedantry—for
letting one side, in short, outbalance another?When Miss Anvoy
threw off this appeal I could have embraced her for so delightfully
emphasising her unlikeness to Mrs. Saltram. “Why not have the
courage of one’s forgiveness,” she asked, “as well as the enthusiasm
of one’s adhesion?”
“Seeing how wonderfully you’ve threshed the whole thing out,” I
evasively replied, “gives me an extraordinary notion of the point
your enthusiasm has reached.”
She considered this remark an instant with her eyes on mine, and
I divined that it struck her I might possibly intend it as a reference
to some personal subjection to our fat philosopher, to some aberra-
tion of sensibility, some perversion of taste. At least I couldn’t inter-
pret otherwise the sudden flash that came into her face. Such a
manifestation, as the result of any word of mine, embarrassed me;
but while I was thinking how to reassure her the flush passed away
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Henry James
in a smile of exquisite good nature. “Oh you see one forgets so won-
derfully how one dislikes him!” she said; and if her tone simply
extinguished his strange figure with the brush of its compassion, it
also rings in my ear to-day as the purest of all our praises. But with
what quick response of fine pity such a relegation of the man him-
self made me privately sigh “Ah poor Saltram!” She instantly, with
this, took the measure of all I didn’t believe, and it enabled her to go
on: “What can one do when a person has given such a lift to one’s
interest in life?”
“Yes, what can one do?” If I struck her as a little vague it was
because I was thinking of another person. I indulged in another
inarticulate murmur—”Poor George Gravener!” What had become
of the lift hehad given that interest?Later on I made up my mind
that she was sore and stricken at the appearance he presented of
wanting the miserable money. This was the hidden reason of her
alienation. The probable sincerity, in spite of the illiberality, of his
scruples about the particular use of it under discussion didn’t efface
the ugliness of his demand that they should buy a good house with
it. Then, as for his alienation, he didn’t, pardonably enough, grasp
the lift Frank Saltram had given her interest in life. If a mere specta-
tor could ask that last question, with what rage in his heart the man
himself might! He wasn’t, like her, I was to see, too proud to show
me why he was disappointed.
130
CHAPTER XI
I was unable this time to stay to dinner: such at any rate was the
plea on which I took leave. I desired in truth to get away from my
young lady, for that obviously helped me not to pretend to satisfy
her. How could I satisfy her?I asked myself—how could I tell her
how much had been kept back?I didn’t even know and I certainly
didn’t desire to know. My own policy had ever been to learn the
least about poor Saltram’s weaknesses—not to learn the most. A
great deal that I had in fact learned had been forced upon me by his
wife. There was something even irritating in Miss Anvoy’s crude
conscientiousness, and I wondered why, after all, she couldn’t have
let him alone and been content to entrust George Gravener with
the purchase of the good house. I was sure he would have driven a
bargain, got something excellent and cheap. I laughed louder even
than she, I temporised, I failed her; I told her I must think over her
case. I professed a horror of responsibilities and twitted her with her
own extravagant passion for them. It wasn’t really that I was afraid
of the scandal, the moral discredit for the Fund; what troubled me
most was a feeling of a different order. Of course, as the beneficiary
of the Fund was to enjoy a simple life-interest, as it was hoped that
new beneficiaries would arise and come up to new standards, it
wouldn’t be a trifle that the first of these worthies shouldn’t have
been a striking example of the domestic virtues. The Fund would
start badly, as it were, and the laurel would, in some respects at least,
scarcely be greener from the brows of the original wearer. That idea,
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Henry James
however, was at that hour, as I have hinted, not the source of solici-
tude it ought perhaps to have been, for I felt less the irregularity of
Saltram’s getting the money than that of this exalted young woman’s
giving it up. I wanted her to have it for herself, and I told her so before
I went away. She looked graver at this than she had looked at all,
saying she hoped such a preference wouldn’t make me dishonest.
It made me, to begin with, very restless—made me, instead of
going straight to the station, fidget a little about that many-coloured
Common which gives Wimbledon horizons. There was a worry for
me to work off, or rather keep at a distance, for I declined even to
admit to myself that I had, in Miss Anvoy’s phrase, been saddled
with it. What could have been clearer indeed than the attitude of
recognising perfectly what a world of trouble The Coxon Fund would
in future save us, and of yet liking better to face a continuance of
that trouble than see, and in fact contribute to, a deviation from
attainable bliss in the life of two other persons in whom I was deeply
interested?Suddenly, at the end of twenty minutes, there was pro-
jected across this clearness the image of a massive middle-aged man
seated on a bench under a tree, with sad far-wandering eyes and
plump white hands folded on the head of a stick—a stick I
recognised, a stout gold-headed staff that I had given him in de-
voted days. I stopped short as he turned his face to me, and it hap-
pened that for some reason or other I took in as I had perhaps never
done before the beauty of his rich blank gaze. It was charged with
experience as the sky is charged with light, and I felt on the instant
as if we had been overspanned and conjoined by the great arch of a
bridge or the great dome of a temple. Doubtless I was rendered
peculiarly sensitive to it by something in the way I had been giving
him up and sinking him. While I met it I stood there smitten, and
I felt myself responding to it with a sort of guilty grimace. This
brought back his attention in a smile which expressed for me a cheer-
ful weary patience, a bruised noble gentleness. I had told Miss Anvoy
132
that he had no dignity, but what did he seem to me, all unbuttoned
and fatigued as he waited for me to come up, if he didn’t seem
unconcerned with small things, didn’t seem in short majestic?There
was majesty in his mere unconsciousness of our little conferences
and puzzlements over his maintenance and his reward.
After I had sat by him a few minutes I passed my arm over his big
soft shoulder—wherever you touched him you found equally little
firmness—and said in a tone of which the suppliance fell oddly on
my own ear: “Come back to town with me, old friend—come back
and spend the evening.” I wanted to hold him, I wanted to keep
him, and at Waterloo, an hour later, I telegraphed possessively to
the Mulvilles. When he objected, as regards staying all night, that
he had no things, I asked him if he hadn’t everything of mine. I had
abstained from ordering dinner, and it was too late for preliminaries
at a club; so we were reduced to tea and fried fish at my rooms—
reduced also to the transcendent. Something had come up which
made me want him to feel at peace with me—and which, precisely,
was all the dear man himself wanted on any occasion. I had too
often had to press upon him considerations irrelevant, but it gives
me pleasure now to think that on that particular evening I didn’t
even mention Mrs. Saltram and the children. Late into the night we
smoked and talked; old shames and old rigours fell away from us; I
only let him see that I was conscious of what I owed him. He was as
mild as contrition and as copious as faith; he was never so fine as on
a shy return, and even better at forgiving than at being forgiven. I
dare say it was a smaller matter than that famous night at Wimbledon,
the night of the problematical sobriety and of Miss Anvoy’s initia-
tion; but I was as much in it on this occasion as I had been out of it
then. At about 1.30 he was sublime.
He never, in whatever situation, rose till all other risings were
over, and his breakfasts, at Wimbledon, had always been the princi-
pal reason mentioned by departing cooks. The coast was therefore
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Henry James
clear for me to receive her when, early the next morning, to my
surprise, it was announced to me his wife had called. I hesitated,
after she had come up, about telling her Saltram was in the house,
but she herself settled the question, kept me reticent by drawing
forth a sealed letter which, looking at me very hard in the eyes, she
placed, with a pregnant absence of comment, in my hand. For a
single moment there glimmered before me the fond hope that Mrs.
Saltram had tendered me, as it were, her resignation and desired to
embody the act in an unsparing form. To bring this about I would
have feigned any humiliation; but after my eyes had caught the
superscription I heard myself say with a flatness that betrayed a sense
of something very different from relief: “Oh the Pudneys!” I knew
their envelopes though they didn’t know mine. They always used
the kind sold at post-offices with the stamp affixed, and as this let-
ter hadn’t been posted they had wasted a penny on me. I had seen
their horrid missives to the Mulvilles, but hadn’t been in direct cor-
respondence with them.
“They enclosed it to me, to be delivered. They doubtless explain
to you that they hadn’t your address.”
I turned the thing over without opening it. “Why in the world
should they write to me?”
“Because they’ve something to tell you. The worst,” Mrs. Saltram
dryly added.
It was another chapter, I felt, of the history of their lamentable
quarrel with her husband, the episode in which, vindictively, disin-
genuously as they themselves had behaved, one had to admit that
he had put himself more grossly in the wrong than at any moment
of his life. He had begun by insulting the matchless Mulvilles for
these more specious protectors, and then, according to his wont at
the end of a few months, had dug a still deeper ditch for his aberra-
tion than the chasm left yawning behind. The chasm at Wimbledon
was now blessedly closed; but the Pudneys, across their persistent
134
gulf, kept up the nastiest fire. I never doubted they had a strong
case, and I had been from the first for not defending him—reason-
ing that if they weren’t contradicted they’d perhaps subside. This
was above all what I wanted, and I so far prevailed that I did arrest
the correspondence in time to save our little circle an infliction heavier
than it perhaps would have borne. I knew, that is I divined, that
their allegations had gone as yet only as far as their courage, con-
scious as they were in their own virtue of an exposed place in which
Saltram could have planted a blow. It was a question with them
whether a man who had himself so much to cover up would dare
his blow; so that these vessels of rancour were in a manner afraid of
each other. I judged that on the day the Pudneys should cease for
some reason or other to be afraid they would treat us to some rev-
elation more disconcerting than any of its predecessors. As I held
Mrs. Saltram’s letter in my hand it was distinctly communicated to
me that the day had come—they had ceased to be afraid. “I don’t
want to know the worst,” I presently declared.
“You’ll have to open the letter. It also contains an enclosure.”
I felt it—it was fat and uncanny. “Wheels within wheels!” I ex-
claimed. “There’s something for me too to deliver.”
“So they tell me—to Miss Anvoy.”
I stared; I felt a certain thrill. “Why don’t they send it to her
directly?”
Mrs. Saltram hung fire. “Because she’s staying with Mr. and Mrs.
Mulville.”
“And why should that prevent?”
Again my visitor faltered, and I began to reflect on the grotesque,
the unconscious perversity of her action. I was the only person save
George Gravener and the Mulvilles who was aware of Sir Gregory
Coxon’s and of Miss Anvoy’s strange bounty. Where could there
have been a more signal illustration of the clumsiness of human
affairs than her having complacently selected this moment to fly in
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Henry James
the face of it?“There’s the chance of their seeing her letters. They
know Mr. Pudney’s hand.”
Still I didn’t understand; then it flashed upon me. “You mean
they might intercept it?How can you imply anything so base?” I
indignantly demanded
“It’s not I—it’s Mr. Pudney!” cried Mrs. Saltram with a flush. “It’s
his own idea.”
“Then why couldn’t he send the letter to you to be delivered?”
Mrs. Saltram’s embarrassment increased; she gave me another hard
look. “You must make that out for yourself.”
I made it out quickly enough. “It’s a denunciation?”
“A real lady doesn’t betray her husband!” this virtuous woman
exclaimed.
I burst out laughing, and I fear my laugh may have had an effect
of impertinence. “Especially to Miss Anvoy, who’s so easily shocked?
Why do such things concern her?” I asked, much at a loss.
“Because she’s there, exposed to all his craft. Mr. and Mrs. Pudney
have been watching this: they feel she may be taken in.”
“Thank you for all the rest of us! What difference can it make
when she has lost her power to contribute?”
Again Mrs. Saltram considered; then very nobly: “There are other
things in the world than money.” This hadn’t occurred to her so
long as the young lady had any; but she now added, with a glance at
my letter, that Mr. and Mrs. Pudney doubtless explained their mo-
tives. “It’s all in kindness,” she continued as she got up.
“Kindness to Miss Anvoy?You took, on the whole, another view
of kindness before her reverses.”
My companion smiled with some acidity “Perhaps you’re no safer
than the Mulvilles!”
I didn’t want her to think that, nor that she should report to the
Pudneys that they had not been happy in their agent; and I well
remember that this was the moment at which I began, with consid-
136
erable emotion, to promise myself to enjoin upon Miss Anvoy never
to open any letter that should come to her in one of those penny
envelopes. My emotion, and I fear I must add my confusion, quickly
deepened; I presently should have been as glad to frighten Mrs.
Saltram as to think I might by some diplomacy restore the Pudneys
to a quieter vigilance.
“It’s best you should take my view of my safety,” I at any rate soon
responded. When I saw she didn’t know what I meant by this I
added: “You may turn out to have done, in bringing me this letter,
a thing you’ll profoundly regret.” My tone had a significance which,
I could see, did make her uneasy, and there was a moment, after I
had made two or three more remarks of studiously bewildering ef-
fect, at which her eyes followed so hungrily the little flourish of the
letter with which I emphasised them that I instinctively slipped Mr.
Pudney’s communication into my pocket. She looked, in her em-
barrassed annoyance, capable of grabbing it to send it back to him.
I felt, after she had gone, as if I had almost given her my word I
wouldn’t deliver the enclosure. The passionate movement, at any
rate, with which, in solitude, I transferred the whole thing, unopened,
from my pocket to a drawer which I double-locked would have
amounted, for an initiated observer, to some such pledge.
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Henry James
CHAPTER XII
MRS. SALTRAM left me drawing my breath more quickly and indeed
almost in pain—as if I had just perilously grazed the loss of some-
thing precious. I didn’t quite know what it was—it had a shocking
resemblance to my honour. The emotion was the livelier surely in
that my pulses even yet vibrated to the pleasure with which, the night
before, I had rallied to the rare analyst, the great intellectual adven-
turer and pathfinder. What had dropped from me like a cumbersome
garment as Saltram appeared before me in the afternoon on the heath
was the disposition to haggle over his value. Hang it, one had to choose,
one had to put that value somewhere; so I would put it really high
and have done with it. Mrs. Mulville drove in for him at a discreet
hour—the earliest she could suppose him to have got up; and I learned
that Miss Anvoy would also have come had she not been expecting a
visit from Mr. Gravener. I was perfectly mindful that I was under
bonds to see this young lady, and also that I had a letter to hand to
her; but I took my time, I waited from day to day. I left Mrs. Saltram
to deal as her apprehensions should prompt with the Pudneys. I knew
at last what I meant—I had ceased to wince at my responsibility. I
gave this supreme impression of Saltram time to fade if it would; but
it didn’t fade, and, individually, it hasn’t faded even now. During the
month that I thus invited myself to stiffen again, Adelaide Mulville,
perplexed by my absence, wrote to me to ask why I wasso stiff. At
that season of the year I was usually oftener “with” them. She also
wrote that she feared a real estrangement had set in between Mr.
138
Gravener and her sweet young friend—a state of things but half satis-
factory to her so long as the advantage resulting to Mr. Saltram failed
to disengage itself from the merely nebulous state. She intimated that
her sweet young friend was, if anything, a trifle too reserved; she also
intimated that there might now be an opening for another clever young
man. There never was the slightest opening, I may here parenthesise,
and of course the question can’t come up to-day. These are old frus-
trations now. Ruth Anvoy hasn’t married, I hear, and neither have I.
During the month, toward the end, I wrote to George Gravener to
ask if, on a special errand, I might come to see him, and his answer
was to knock the very next day at my door. I saw he had immediately
connected my enquiry with the talk we had had in the railway-car-
riage, and his promptitude showed that the ashes of his eagerness
weren’t yet cold. I told him there was something I felt I ought in
candour to let him know—I recognised the obligation his friendly
confidence had laid on me.
“You mean Miss Anvoy has talked to you?She has told me so
herself,” he said.
“It wasn’t to tell you so that I wanted to see you,” I replied; “for it
seemed to me that such a communication would rest wholly with
herself. If however she did speak to you of our conversation she
probably told you I was discouraging.”
“Discouraging?”
“On the subject of a present application of The Coxon Fund.”
“To the case of Mr. Saltram?My dear fellow, I don’t know what
you call discouraging!” Gravener cried.
“Well I thought I was, and I thought she thought I was.”
“I believe she did, but such a thing’s measured by the effect. She’s
not ‘discouraged,’” he said.
“That’s her own affair. The reason I asked you to see me was that
it appeared to me I ought to tell you frankly that—decidedly!—I
can’t undertake to produce that effect. In fact I don’t want to!”
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Henry James
“It’s very good of you, damn you!” my visitor laughed, red and
really grave. Then he said: “You’d like to see that scoundrel publicly
glorified—perched on the pedestal of a great complimentary pen-
sion?”
I braced myself. “Taking one form of public recognition with
another it seems to me on the whole I should be able to bear it.
When I see the compliments that are paid right and left I ask myself
why this one shouldn’t take its course. This therefore is what you’re
entitled to have looked to me to mention to you. I’ve some evidence
that perhaps would be really dissuasive, but I propose to invite Mss
Anvoy to remain in ignorance of it.”
“And to invite me to do the same?”
“Oh you don’t require it—you’ve evidence enough. I speak of a
sealed letter that I’ve been requested to deliver to her.”
“And you don’t mean to?”
“There’s only one consideration that would make me,” I said.
Gravener’s clear handsome eyes plunged into mine a minute, but
evidently without fishing up a clue to this motive—a failure by which
I was almost wounded. “What does the letter contain?”
“It’s sealed, as I tell you, and I don’t know what it contains.”
“Why is it sent through you?”
“Rather than you?” I wondered how to put the thing. “The only
explanation I can think of is that the person sending it may have
imagined your relations with Miss Anvoy to be at an end—may
have been told this is the case by Mrs. Saltram.”
“My relations with Miss Anvoy are not at an end,” poor Gravener
stammered.
Again for an instant I thought. “The offer I propose to make you
gives me the right to address you a question remarkably direct. Are
you still engaged to Miss Anvoy?”
“No, I’m not,” he slowly brought out. “But we’re perfectly good
friends.”
140
“Such good friends that you’ll again become prospective husband
and wife if the obstacle in your path be removed?”
“Removed?” he anxiously repeated.
“If I send Miss Anvoy the letter I speak of she may give up her
idea.”
“Then for God’s sake send it!”
“I’ll do so if you’re ready to assure me that her sacrifice would
now presumably bring about your marriage.”
“I’d marry her the next day!” my visitor cried.
“Yes, but would she marry you?What I ask of you of course is
nothing less than your word of honour as to your conviction of this.
If you give it me,” I said, “I’ll engage to hand her the letter before
night.”
Gravener took up his hat; turning it mechanically round he stood
looking a moment hard at its unruffled perfection. Then very an-
grily honestly and gallantly, “Hand it to the devil!” he broke out;
with which he clapped the hat on his head and left me.
“Will you read it or not?” I said to Ruth Anvoy, at Wimbledon,
when I had told her the story of Mrs. Saltram’s visit.
She debated for a time probably of the briefest, but long enough
to make me nervous. “Have you brought it with you?”
“No indeed. It’s at home, locked up.”
There was another great silence, and then she said “Go back and
destroy it.”
I went back, but I didn’t destroy it till after Saltram’s death, when
I burnt it unread. The Pudneys approached her again pressingly,
but, prompt as they were, The Coxon Fund had already become an
operative benefit and a general amaze: Mr. Saltram, while we gath-
ered about, as it were, to watch the manna descend, had begun to
draw the magnificent income. He drew it as he had always drawn
everything, with a grand abstracted gesture. Its magnificence, alas,
as all the world now knows, quite quenched him; it was the begin-
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Henry James
ning of his decline. It was also naturally a new grievance for his
wife, who began to believe in him as soon as he was blighted, and
who at this hour accuses us of having bribed him, on the whim of a
meddlesome American, to renounce his glorious office, to become,
as she says, like everybody else. The very day he found himself able
to publish he wholly ceased to produce. This deprived us, as may
easily be imagined, of much of our occupation, and especially de-
prived the Mulvilles, whose want of self-support I never measured
till they lost their great inmate. They’ve no one to live on now.
Adelaide’s most frequent reference to their destitution is embodied
in the remark that dear far-away Ruth’s intentions were doubtless
good. She and Kent are even yet looking for another prop, but no
one presents a true sphere of usefulness. They complain that people
are self-sufficing. With Saltram the fine type of the child of adop-
tion was scattered, the grander, the elder style. They’ve got their
carriage back, but what’s an empty carriage?In short I think we
were all happier as well as poorer before; even including George
Gravener, who by the deaths of his brother and his nephew has
lately become Lord Maddock. His wife, whose fortune clears the
property, is criminally dull; he hates being in the Upper House, and
hasn’t yet had high office. But what are these accidents, which I
should perhaps apologise for mentioning, in the light of the great
eventual boon promised the patient by the rate at which The Coxon
Fund must be rolling up?
142
The Death of the Lion
by
Henry James
CHAPTER I
I HAD SIMPLY, I suppose, a change of heart, and it must have begun
when I received my manuscript back from Mr. Pinhorn. Mr. Pinhorn
was my “chief,” as he was called in the office: he had the high mis-
sion of bringing the paper up. This was a weekly periodical, which
had been supposed to be almost past redemption when he took
hold of it. It was Mr. Deedy who had let the thing down so dread-
fully: he was never mentioned in the office now save in connexion
with that misdemeanour. Young as I was I had been in a manner
taken over from Mr. Deedy, who had been owner as well as editor;
forming part of a promiscuous lot, mainly plant and office-furni-
ture, which poor Mrs. Deedy, in her bereavement and depression,
parted with at a rough valuation. I could account for my continuity
but on the supposition that I had been cheap. I rather resented the
practice of fathering all flatness on my late protector, who was in his
unhonoured grave; but as I had my way to make I found matter
enough for complacency in being on a “staff.” At the same time I
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Henry James
was aware of my exposure to suspicion as a product of the old low-
ering system. This made me feel I was doubly bound to have ideas,
and had doubtless been at the bottom of my proposing to Mr.
Pinhorn that I should lay my lean hands on Neil Paraday. I remem-
ber how he looked at me—quite, to begin with, as if he had never
heard of this celebrity, who indeed at that moment was by no means
in the centre of the heavens; and even when I had knowingly ex-
plained he expressed but little confidence in the demand for any
such stuff. When I had reminded him that the great principle on
which we were supposed to work was just to create the demand we
required, he considered a moment and then returned: “I see—you
want to write him up.”
“Call it that if you like.”
“And what’s your inducement?”
“Bless my soul—my admiration!”
Mr. Pinhorn pursed up his mouth. “Is there much to be done
with him?”
“Whatever there is we should have it all to ourselves, for he hasn’t
been touched.”
This argument was effective and Mr. Pinhorn responded. “Very
well, touch him.” Then he added: “But where can you do it?”
“Under the fifth rib!”
Mr. Pinhorn stared. “Where’s that?”
“You want me to go down and see him?” I asked when I had
enjoyed his visible search for the obscure suburb I seemed to have
named.
“I don’t ‘want’ anything—the proposal’s your own. But you must
remember that that’s the way we do things NOW,” said Mr. Pinhorn
with another dig Mr. Deedy.
Unregenerate as I was I could read the queer implications of this
speech. The present owner’s superior virtue as well as his deeper
craft spoke in his reference to the late editor as one of that baser sort
144
who deal in false representations. Mr. Deedy would as soon have
sent me to call on Neil Paraday as he would have published a “holi-
day-number”; but such scruples presented themselves as mere ig-
noble thrift to his successor, whose own sincerity took the form of
ringing door-bells and whose definition of genius was the art of
finding people at home. It was as if Mr. Deedy had published re-
ports without his young men’s having, as Pinhorn would have said,
really been there. I was unregenerate, as I have hinted, and couldn’t
be concerned to straighten out the journalistic morals of my chief,
feeling them indeed to be an abyss over the edge of which it was
better not to peer. Really to be there this time moreover was a vision
that made the idea of writing something subtle about Neil Paraday
only the more inspiring. I would be as considerate as even Mr. Deedy
could have wished, and yet I should be as present as only Mr. Pinhorn
could conceive. My allusion to the sequestered manner in which
Mr. Paraday lived—it had formed part of my explanation, though I
knew of it only by hearsay—was, I could divine, very much what
had made Mr. Pinhorn nibble. It struck him as inconsistent with
the success of his paper that any one should be so sequestered as
that. And then wasn’t an immediate exposure of everything just what
the public wanted?Mr. Pinhorn effectually called me to order by
reminding me of the promptness with which I had met Miss Braby
at Liverpool on her return from her fiasco in the States. Hadn’t we
published, while its freshness and flavour were unimpaired, Miss
Braby’s own version of that great international episode?I felt some-
what uneasy at this lumping of the actress and the author, and I
confess that after having enlisted Mr. Pinhorn’s sympathies I pro-
crastinated a little. I had succeeded better than I wished, and I had,
as it happened, work nearer at hand. A few days later I called on
Lord Crouchley and carried off in triumph the most unintelligible
statement that had yet appeared of his lordship’s reasons for his
change of front. I thus set in motion in the daily papers columns of
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Henry James
virtuous verbiage. The following week I ran down to Brighton for a
chat, as Mr. Pinhorn called it, with Mrs. Bounder, who gave me, on
the subject of her divorce, many curious particulars that had not
been articulated in court. If ever an article flowed from the primal
fount it was that article on Mrs. Bounder. By this time, however, I
became aware that Neil Paraday’s new book was on the point of
appearing and that its approach had been the ground of my original
appeal to Mr. Pinhorn, who was now annoyed with me for having
lost so many days. He bundled me off—we would at least not lose
another. I’ve always thought his sudden alertness a remarkable ex-
ample of the journalistic instinct. Nothing had occurred, since I
first spoke to him, to create a visible urgency, and no enlightenment
could possibly have reached him. It was a pure case of profession
flair—he had smelt the coming glory as an animal smells its distant
prey.
146
CHAPTER II
I MAY AS WELL SAY at once that this little record pretends in no degree
to be a picture either of my introduction to Mr. Paraday or of cer-
tain proximate steps and stages. The scheme of my narrative allows
no space for these things, and in any case a prohibitory sentiment
would hang about my recollection of so rare an hour. These meagre
notes are essentially private, so that if they see the light the insidious
forces that, as my story itself shows, make at present for publicity
will simply have overmastered my precautions. The curtain fell lately
enough on the lamentable drama. My memory of the day I alighted
at Mr. Paraday’s door is a fresh memory of kindness, hospitality,
compassion, and of the wonderful illuminating talk in which the
welcome was conveyed. Some voice of the air had taught me the
right moment, the moment of his life at which an act of unexpected
young allegiance might most come home to him. He had recently
recovered from a long, grave illness. I had gone to the neighbouring
inn for the night, but I spent the evening in his company, and he
insisted the next day on my sleeping under his roof. I hadn’t an
indefinite leave: Mr. Pinhorn supposed us to put our victims through
on the gallop. It was later, in the office, that the rude motions of the
jig were set to music. I fortified myself, however, as my training had
taught me to do, by the conviction that nothing could be more
advantageous for my article than to be written in the very atmo-
sphere. I said nothing to Mr. Paraday about it, but in the morning,
after my remove from the inn, while he was occupied in his study,
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Henry James
as he had notified me he should need to be, I committed to paper
the main heads of my impression. Then thinking to commend my-
self to Mr. Pinhorn by my celerity, I walked out and posted my little
packet before luncheon. Once my paper was written I was free to
stay on, and if it was calculated to divert attention from my levity in
so doing I could reflect with satisfaction that I had never been so
clever. I don’t mean to deny of course that I was aware it was much
too good for Mr. Pinhorn; but I was equally conscious that Mr.
Pinhorn had the supreme shrewdness of recognising from time to
time the cases in which an article was not too bad only because it
was too good. There was nothing he loved so much as to print on
the right occasion a thing he hated. I had begun my visit to the
great man on a Monday, and on the Wednesday his book came out.
A copy of it arrived by the first post, and he let me go out into the
garden with it immediately after breakfast, I read it from beginning
to end that day, and in the evening he asked me to remain with him
the rest of the week and over the Sunday.
That night my manuscript came back from Mr. Pinhorn, accom-
panied with a letter the gist of which was the desire to know what I
meant by trying to fob off on him such stuff. That was the meaning
of the question, if not exactly its form, and it made my mistake
immense to me. Such as this mistake was I could now only look it
in the face and accept it. I knew where I had failed, but it was ex-
actly where I couldn’t have succeeded. I had been sent down to be
personal and then in point of fact hadn’t been personal at all: what
I had dispatched to London was just a little finicking feverish study
of my author’s talent. Anything less relevant to Mr. Pinhorn’s pur-
pose couldn’t well be imagined, and he was visibly angry at my hav-
ing (at his expense, with a second-class ticket) approached the sub-
ject of our enterprise only to stand off so helplessly. For myself, I
knew but too well what had happened, and how a miracle—as pretty
as some old miracle of legend—had been wrought on the spot to
148
save me. There had been a big brush of wings, the flash of an opa-
line robe, and then, with a great cool stir of the air, the sense of an
angel’s having swooped down and caught me to his bosom. He held
me only till the danger was over, and it all took place in a minute.
With my manuscript back on my hands I understood the phenom-
enon better, and the reflexions I made on it are what I meant, at the
beginning of this anecdote, by my change of heart. Mr. Pinhorn’s
note was not only a rebuke decidedly stern, but an invitation imme-
diately to send him—it was the case to say so—the genuine article,
the revealing and reverberating sketch to the promise of which, and
of which alone, I owed my squandered privilege. A week or two
later I recast my peccant paper and, giving it a particular applica-
tion to Mr. Paraday’s new book, obtained for it the hospitality of
another journal, where, I must admit, Mr. Pinhorn was so far vindi-
cated as that it attracted not the least attention.
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Henry James
CHAPTER III
I WAS FRANKLY, at the end of three days, a very prejudiced critic, so that
one morning when, in the garden, my great man had offered to read
me something I quite held my breath as I listened. It was the written
scheme of another book—something put aside long ago, before his
illness, but that he had lately taken out again to reconsider. He had
been turning it round when I came down on him, and it had grown
magnificently under this second hand. Loose liberal confident, it might
have passed for a great gossiping eloquent letter—the overflow into
talk of an artist’s amorous plan. The theme I thought singularly rich,
quite the strongest he had yet treated; and this familiar statement of
it, full too of fine maturities, was really, in summarised splendour, a
mine of gold, a precious independent work. I remember rather pro-
fanely wondering whether the ultimate production could possibly keep
at the pitch. His reading of the fond epistle, at any rate, made me feel
as if I were, for the advantage of posterity, in close correspondence
with him—were the distinguished person to whom it had been affec-
tionately addressed. It was a high distinction simply to be told such
things. The idea he now communicated had all the freshness, the
flushed fairness, of the conception untouched and untried: it was
Venus rising from the sea and before the airs had blown upon her. I
had never been so throbbingly present at such an unveiling. But when
he had tossed the last bright word after the others, as I had seen cash-
iers in banks, weighing mounds of coin, drop a final sovereign into
the tray, I knew a sudden prudent alarm.
150
“My dear master, how, after all, are you going to do it?It’s infi-
nitely noble, but what time it will take, what patience and indepen-
dence, what assured, what perfect conditions! Oh for a lone isle in a
tepid sea!”
“Isn’t this practically a lone isle, and aren’t you, as an
encircling medium, tepid enough?” he asked, alluding with a laugh
to the wonder of my young admiration and the narrow limits of his
little provincial home. “Time isn’t what I’ve lacked hitherto: the
question hasn’t been to find it, but to use it. Of course my illness
made, while it lasted, a great hole—but I dare say there would have
been a hole at any rate. The earth we tread has more pockets than a
billiard-table. The great thing is now to keep on my feet.”
“That’s exactly what I mean.”
Neil Paraday looked at me with eyes—such pleasant eyes as he
had—in which, as I now recall their expression, I seem to have seen
a dim imagination of his fate. He was fifty years old, and his illness
had been cruel, his convalescence slow. “It isn’t as if I weren’t all
right.”
“Oh if you weren’t all right I wouldn’t look at you!” I tenderly
said.
We had both got up, quickened as by this clearer air, and he had
lighted a cigarette. I had taken a fresh one, which with an intenser
smile, by way of answer to my exclamation, he applied to the flame
of his match. “If I weren’t better I shouldn’t have thought of that!”
He flourished his script in his hand.
“I don’t want to be discouraging, but that’s not true,” I returned.
“I’m sure that during the months you lay here in pain you had visi-
tations sublime. You thought of a thousand things. You think of
more and more all the while. That’s what makes you, if you’ll par-
don my familiarity, so respectable. At a time when so many people
are spent you come into your second wind. But, thank God, all the
same, you’re better! Thank God, too, you’re not, as you were telling
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Henry James
me yesterday, ‘successful.’ If you weren’t a failure what would be the
use of trying?That’s my one reserve on the subject of your recov-
ery—that it makes you ‘score,’ as the newspapers say. It looks well
in the newspapers, and almost anything that does that’s horrible.
‘We are happy to announce that Mr. Paraday, the celebrated author,
is again in the enjoyment of excellent health.’ Somehow I shouldn’t
like to see it.”
“You won’t see it; I’m not in the least celebrated—my obscurity
protects me. But couldn’t you bear even to see I was dying or dead?”
my host enquired.
“Dead—passe encore; there’s nothing so safe. One never knows
what a living artist may do—one has mourned so many. However,
one must make the worst of it. You must be as dead as you can.”
“Don’t I meet that condition in having just published a book?”
“Adequately, let us hope; for the book’s verily a masterpiece.”
At this moment the parlour-maid appeared in the door that opened
from the garden: Paraday lived at no great cost, and the frisk of
petticoats, with a timorous “Sherry, sir?” was about his modest ma-
hogany. He allowed half his income to his wife, from whom he had
succeeded in separating without redundancy of legend. I had a gen-
eral faith in his having behaved well, and I had once, in London,
taken Mrs. Paraday down to dinner. He now turned to speak to the
maid, who offered him, on a tray, some card or note, while, agi-
tated, excited, I wandered to the end of the precinct. The idea of his
security became supremely dear to me, and I asked myself if I were
the same young man who had come down a few days before to
scatter him to the four winds. When I retraced my steps he had
gone into the house, and the woman—the second London post had
come in—had placed my letters and a newspaper on a bench. I sat
down there to the letters, which were a brief business, and then,
without heeding the address, took the paper from its envelope. It
was the journal of highest renown, TheEmpireof that morning. It
152
regularly came to Paraday, but I remembered that neither of us had
yet looked at the copy already delivered. This one had a great mark
on the “editorial” page, and, uncrumpling the wrapper, I saw it to
be directed to my host and stamped with the name of his publish-
ers. I instantly divined that TheEmpirehad spoken of him, and I’ve
not forgotten the odd little shock of the circumstance. It checked all
eagerness and made me drop the paper a moment. As I sat there
conscious of a palpitation I think I had a vision of what was to be. I
had also a vision of the letter I would presently address to Mr.
Pinhorn, breaking, as it were, with Mr. Pinhorn. Of course, how-
ever, the next minute the voice of TheEmpirewas in my ears.
The article wasn’t, I thanked heaven, a review; it was a “leader,”
the last of three, presenting Neil Paraday to the human race. His
new book, the fifth from his hand, had been but a day or two out,
and TheEmpire, already aware of it, fired, as if on the birth of a
prince, a salute of a whole column. The guns had been booming
these three hours in the house without our suspecting them. The
big blundering newspaper had discovered him, and now he was pro-
claimed and anointed and crowned. His place was assigned him as
publicly as if a fat usher with a wand had pointed to the topmost
chair; he was to pass up and still up, higher and higher, between the
watching faces and the envious sounds—away up to the dais and
the throne. The article was “epoch-making,” a landmark in his life;
he had taken rank at a bound, waked up a national glory. A national
glory was needed, and it was an immense convenience he was there.
What all this meant rolled over me, and I fear I grew a little faint—
it meant so much more than I could say “yea” to on the spot. In a
flash, somehow, all was different; the tremendous wave I speak of
had swept something away. It had knocked down, I suppose, my
little customary altar, my twinkling tapers and my flowers, and had
reared itself into the likeness of a temple vast and bare. When Neil
Paraday should come out of the house he would come out a con-
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Henry James
temporary. That was what had happened: the poor man was to be
squeezed into his horrible age. I felt as if he had been overtaken on
the crest of the hill and brought back to the city. A little more and
he would have dipped down the short cut to posterity and escaped.
154
CHAPTER IV
WHEN HE CAME OUT it was exactly as if he had been in custody, for
beside him walked a stout man with a big black beard, who, save
that he wore spectacles, might have been a policeman, and in whom
at a second glance I recognised the highest contemporary enter-
prise.
“This is Mr. Morrow,” said Paraday, looking, I thought, rather
white: “he wants to publish heaven knows what about me.”
I winced as I remembered that this was exactly what I myself had
wanted. “Already?” I cried with a sort of sense that my friend had
fled to me for protection.
Mr. Morrow glared, agreeably, through his glasses: they suggested
the electric headlights of some monstrous modem ship, and I felt as
if Paraday and I were tossing terrified under his bows. I saw his
momentum was irresistible. “I was confident that I should be the
first in the field. A great interest is naturally felt in Mr. Paraday’s
surroundings,” he heavily observed.
“I hadn’t the least idea of it,” said Paraday, as if he had been told
he had been snoring.
“I find he hasn’t read the article in TheEmpire,” Mr. Morrow
remarked to me. “That’s so very interesting—it’s something to start
with,” he smiled. He had begun to pull off his gloves, which were
violently new, and to look encouragingly round the little garden. As
a “surrounding” I felt how I myself had already been taken in; I was
a little fish in the stomach of a bigger one. “I represent,” our visitor
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Henry James
continued, “a syndicate of influential journals, no less than thirty-
seven, whose public—whose publics, I may say—are in peculiar
sympathy with Mr. Paraday’s line of thought. They would greatly
appreciate any expression of his views on the subject of the art he so
nobly exemplifies. In addition to my connexion with the syndicate
just mentioned I hold a particular commission from TheTatler, whose
most prominent department, ‘Smatter and Chatter’—I dare say
you’ve often enjoyed it—attracts such attention. I was honoured
only last week, as a representative of TheTatler, with the confidence
of Guy Walsingham, the brilliant author of ‘Obsessions.’ She pro-
nounced herself thoroughly pleased with my sketch of her method;
she went so far as to say that I had made her genius more compre-
hensible even to herself.”
Neil Paraday had dropped on the garden-bench and sat there at
once detached and confounded; he looked hard at a bare spot in the
lawn, as if with an anxiety that had suddenly made him grave. His
movement had been interpreted by his visitor as an invitation to
sink sympathetically into a wicker chair that stood hard by, and
while Mr. Morrow so settled himself I felt he had taken official
possession and that there was no undoing it. One had heard of un-
fortunate people’s having “a man in the house,” and this was just
what we had. There was a silence of a moment, during which we
seemed to acknowledge in the only way that was possible the pres-
ence of universal fate; the sunny stillness took no pity, and my
thought, as I was sure Paraday’s was doing, performed within the
minute a great distant revolution. I saw just how emphatic I should
make my rejoinder to Mr. Pinhorn, and that having come, like Mr.
Morrow, to betray, I must remain as long as possible to save. Not
because I had brought my mind back, but because our visitors last
words were in my ear, I presently enquired with gloomy irrelevance
if Guy Walsingham were a woman.
“Oh yes, a mere pseudonym—rather pretty, isn’t it?—and conve-
156
nient, you know, for a lady who goes in for the larger latitude. ‘Ob-
sessions, by Miss So-and-so,’ would look a little odd, but men are
more naturally indelicate. Have you peeped into ‘Obsessions’?” Mr.
Morrow continued sociably to our companion.
Paraday, still absent, remote, made no answer, as if he hadn’t heard
the question: a form of intercourse that appeared to suit the cheer-
ful Mr. Morrow as well as any other. Imperturbably bland, he was a
man of resources—he only needed to be on the spot. He had pock-
eted the whole poor place while Paraday and I were wool-gathering,
and I could imagine that he had already got his “heads.” His sys-
tem, at any rate, was justified by the inevitability with which I re-
plied, to save my friend the trouble: “Dear no—he hasn’t read it.
He doesn’t read such things!” I unwarily added.
“Things that are too far over the fence, eh?” I was indeed a god-
send to Mr. Morrow. It was the psychological moment; it deter-
mined the appearance of his note-book, which, however, he at first
kept slightly behind him, even as the dentist approaching his victim
keeps the horrible forceps. “Mr. Paraday holds with the good old
proprieties—I see!” And thinking of the thirty-seven influential jour-
nals, I found myself, as I found poor Paraday, helplessly assisting at
the promulgation of this ineptitude. “There’s no point on which
distinguished views are so acceptable as on this question—raised
perhaps more strikingly than ever by Guy Walsingham—of the per-
missibility of the larger latitude. I’ve an appointment, precisely in
connexion with it, next week, with Dora Forbes, author of ‘The
Other Way Round,’ which everybody’s talking about. Has Mr.
Paraday glanced at ‘The Other Way Round’?” Mr. Morrow now
frankly appealed to me. I took on myself to repudiate the supposi-
tion, while our companion, still silent, got up nervously and walked
away. His visitor paid no heed to his withdrawal; but opened out
the note-book with a more fatherly pat. “Dora Forbes, I gather,
takes the ground, the same as Guy Walsingham’s, that the larger
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Henry James
latitude has simply got to come. He holds that it has got to be squarely
faced. Of course his sex makes him a less prejudiced witness. But an
authoritative word from Mr. Paraday—from the point of view of
hissex, you know—
would go right round the globe. He takes the line that we haven’t
got to face it?”
I was bewildered: it sounded somehow as if there were three sexes.
My interlocutor’s pencil was poised, my private responsibility great.
I simply sat staring, none the less, and only found presence of mind
to say: “Is this Miss Forbes a gentleman?”
Mr. Morrow had a subtle smile. “It wouldn’t be ‘Miss’—there’s a
wife!”
“I mean is she a man?”
“The wife?”—Mr. Morrow was for a moment as confused as my-
self. But when I explained that I alluded to Dora Forbes in person he
informed me, with visible amusement at my being so out of it, that
this was the “pen-name” of an indubitable male—he had a big red
moustache. “He goes in for the slight mystification because the ladies
are such popular favourites. A great deal of interest is felt in his acting
on that idea—which isclever, isn’t it?—and there’s every prospect of
its being widely imitated.” Our host at this moment joined us again,
and Mr. Morrow remarked invitingly that he should be happy to
make a note of any observation the movement in question, the bid
for success under a lady’s name, might suggest to Mr. Paraday. But the
poor man, without catching the allusion, excused himself, pleading
that, though greatly honoured by his visitor’s interest, he suddenly
felt unwell and should have to take leave of him—have to go and lie
down and keep quiet. His young friend might be trusted to answer
for him, but he hoped Mr. Morrow didn’t expect great things even of
his young friend. His young friend, at this moment, looked at Neil
Paraday with an anxious eye, greatly wondering if he were doomed to
be ill again; but Paraday’s own kind face met his question reassur-
158
ingly, seemed to say in a glance intelligible enough: “Oh I’m not ill,
but I’m scared: get him out of the house as quietly as possible.” Get-
ting newspaper-men out of the house was odd business for an emis-
sary of Mr. Pinhorn, and I was so exhilarated by the idea of it that I
called after him as he left us: “Read the article in TheEmpireand
you’ll soon be all right!”
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Henry James
CHAPTER V
“DELICIOUS MY HAVING come down to tell him of it!” Mr. Morrow
ejaculated. “My cab was at the door twenty minutes after TheEm-
pirehad been laid on my breakfast-table. Now what have you got
for me?” he continued, dropping again into his chair, from which,
however, he the next moment eagerly rose. “I was shown into the
drawing-room, but there must be more to see—his study, his liter-
ary sanctum, the little things he has about, or other domestic ob-
jects and features. He wouldn’t be lying down on his study-table?
There’s a great interest always felt in the scene of an author’s labours.
Sometimes we’re favoured with very delightful peeps. Dora Forbes
showed me all his table-drawers, and almost jammed my hand into
one into which I made a dash! I don’t ask that of you, but if we
could talk things over right there where he sits I feel as if I should
get the keynote.”
I had no wish whatever to be rude to Mr. Morrow, I was much
too initiated not to tend to more diplomacy; but I had a quick in-
spiration, and I entertained an insurmountable, an almost supersti-
tious objection to his crossing the threshold of my friend’s little
lonely shabby consecrated workshop. “No, no—we shan’t get at his
life that way,” I said. “The way to get at his life is to—But wait a
moment!” I broke off and went quickly into the house, whence I in
three minutes reappeared before Mr. Morrow with the two volumes
of Paraday’s new book. “His life’s here,” I went on, “and I’m so full
of this admirable thing that I can’t talk of anything else. The artist’s
160
life’s his work, and this is the place to observe him. What he has to
tell us he tells us with thisperfection. My dear sir, the best inter-
viewer is the best reader.”
Mr. Morrow good-humouredly protested. “Do you mean to say
that no other source of information should be open to us?”
“None other till this particular one—by far the most copious—
has been quite exhausted. Have you exhausted it, my dear sir?Had
you exhausted it when you came down here?It seems to me in our
time almost wholly neglected, and something should surely be done
to restore its ruined credit. It’s the course to which the artist himself
at every step, and with such pathetic confidence, refers us. This last
book of Mr. Paraday’s is full of revelations.”
“Revelations?” panted Mr. Morrow, whom I had forced again into
his chair.
“The only kind that count. It tells you with a perfection that
seems to me quite final all the author thinks, for instance, about the
advent of the ‘larger latitude.’”
“Where does it do that?” asked Mr. Morrow, who had picked up
the second volume and was insincerely thumbing it.
“Everywhere—in the whole treatment of his case. Extract the
opinion, disengage the answer—those are the real acts of homage.”
Mr. Morrow, after a minute, tossed the book away. “Ah but you
mustn’t take me for a reviewer.”
“Heaven forbid I should take you for anything so dreadful! You
came down to perform a little act of sympathy, and so, I may con-
fide to you, did I. Let us perform our little act together. These pages
overflow with the testimony we want: let us read them and taste
them and interpret them. You’ll of course have perceived for your-
self that one scarcely does read Neil Paraday till one reads him aloud;
he gives out to the ear an extraordinary full tone, and it’s only when
you expose it confidently to that test that you really get near his
style. Take up your book again and let me listen, while you pay it
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Henry James
out, to that wonderful fifteenth chapter. If you feel you can’t do it
justice, compose yourself to attention while I produce for you—I
think I can!—this scarcely less admirable ninth.”
Mr. Morrow gave me a straight look which was as hard as a blow
between the eyes; he had turned rather red, and a question had
formed itself in his mind which reached my sense as distinctly as if
he had uttered it: “What sort of a damned fool are you?” Then he
got up, gathering together his hat and gloves, buttoning his coat,
projecting hungrily all over the place the big transparency of his
mask. It seemed to flare over Fleet Street and somehow made the
actual spot distressingly humble: there was so little for it to feed on
unless he counted the blisters of our stucco or saw his way to do
something with the roses. Even the poor roses were common kinds.
Presently his eyes fell on the manuscript from which Paraday had
been reading to me and which still lay on the bench. As my own
followed them I saw it looked promising, looked pregnant, as if it
gently throbbed with the life the reader had given it. Mr. Morrow
indulged in a nod at it and a vague thrust of his umbrella. “What’s
that?”
“Oh, it’s a plan—a secret.”
“A secret!” There was an instant’s silence, and then Mr. Morrow
made another movement. I may have been mistaken, but it affected
me as the translated impulse of the desire to lay hands on the manu-
script, and this led me to indulge in a quick anticipatory grab which
may very well have seemed ungraceful, or even impertinent, and
which at any rate left Mr. Paraday’s two admirers very erect, glaring
at each other while one of them held a bundle of papers well behind
him. An instant later Mr. Morrow quitted me abruptly, as if he had
really carried something off with him. To reassure myself, watching
his broad back recede, I only grasped my manuscript the tighter. He
went to the back door of the house, the one he had come out from,
but on trying the handle he appeared to find it fastened. So he
162
passed round into the front garden, and by listening intently enough
I could presently hear the outer gate close behind him with a bang.
I thought again of the thirty-seven influential journals and won-
dered what would be his revenge. I hasten to add that he was mag-
nanimous: which was just the most dreadful thing he could have
been. TheTatler published a charming chatty familiar account of
Mr. Paraday’s “Home-life,” and on the
wings of the thirty-seven influential journals it went, to use Mr.
Morrow’s own expression, right round the globe.
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Henry James
CHAPTER VI
A WEEK LATER, early in May, my glorified friend came up to town,
where, it may be veraciously recorded he was the king of the beasts
of the year. No advancement was ever more rapid, no exaltation
more complete, no bewilderment more teachable. His book sold
but moderately, though the article in TheEmpirehad done unwonted
wonders for it; but he circulated in person to a measure that the
libraries might well have envied. His formula had been found—he
was a “revelation.” His momentary terror had been real, just as mine
had been—the overclouding of his passionate desire to be left to
finish his work. He was far from unsociable, but he had the finest
conception of being let alone that I’ve ever met. For the time, none
the less, he took his profit where it seemed most to crowd on him,
having in his pocket the portable sophistries about the nature of the
artist’s task. Observation too was a kind of work and experience a
kind of success; London dinners were all material and London la-
dies were fruitful toil. “No one has the faintest conception of what
I’m trying for,” he said to me, “and not many have read three pages
that I’ve written; but I must dine with them first—they’ll find out
why when they’ve time.” It was rather rude justice perhaps; but the
fatigue had the merit of being a new sort, while the phantasmagoric
town was probably after all less of a battlefield than the haunted
study. He once told me that he had had no personal life to speak of
since his fortieth year, but had had more than was good for him
before. London closed the parenthesis and exhibited him in rela-
164
tions; one of the most inevitable of these being that in which he
found himself to Mrs. Weeks Wimbush, wife of the boundless brewer
and proprietress of the universal menagerie. In this establishment,
as everybody knows, on occasions when the crush is great, the ani-
mals rub shoulders freely with the spectators and the lions sit down
for whole evenings with the lambs.
It had been ominously clear to me from the first that in Neil
Paraday this lady, who, as all the world agreed, was tremendous fun,
considered that she had secured a prime attraction, a creature of
almost heraldic oddity. Nothing could exceed her enthusiasm over
her capture, and nothing could exceed the confused apprehensions
it excited in me. I had an instinctive fear of her which I tried with-
out effect to conceal from her victim, but which I let her notice
with perfect impunity. Paraday heeded it, but she never did, for her
conscience was that of a romping child. She was a blind violent
force to which I could attach no more idea of responsibility than to
the creaking of a sign in the wind. It was difficult to say what she
conduced to but circulation. She was constructed of steel and leather,
and all I asked of her for our tractable friend was not to do him to
death. He had consented for a time to be of india-rubber, but my
thoughts were fixed on the day he should resume his shape or at
least get back into his box. It was evidently all right, but I should be
glad when it was well over. I had a special fear—the impression was
ineffaceable of the hour when, after Mr. Morrow’s departure, I had
found him on the sofa in his study. That pretext of indisposition
had not in the least been meant as a snub to the envoy of TheTatler—
he had gone to lie down in very truth. He had felt a pang of his old
pain, the result of the agitation wrought in him by this forcing open
of a new period. His old programme, his old ideal even had to be
changed. Say what one would, success was a complication and rec-
ognition had to be reciprocal. The monastic life, the pious illumi-
nation of the missal in the convent cell were things of the gathered
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Henry James
past. It didn’t engender despair, but at least it required adjustment.
Before I left him on that occasion we had passed a bargain, my part
of which was that I should make it my business to take care of him.
Let whoever would represent the interest in his presence (I must
have had a mystical prevision of Mrs. Weeks Wimbush) I should
represent the interest in his work—or otherwise expressed in his
absence. These two interests were in their essence opposed; and I
doubt, as youth is fleeting, if I shall ever again know the intensity of
joy with which I felt that in so good a cause I was willing to make
myself odious.
One day in Sloane Street I found myself questioning Paraday’s
landlord, who had come to the door in answer to my knock. Two
vehicles, a barouche and a smart hansom, were drawn up before the
house.
“In the drawing-room, sir?Mrs. Weeks Wimbush.”
“And in the dining-room?”
“A young lady, sir—waiting: I think a foreigner.”
It was three o’clock, and on days when Paraday didn’t lunch out
he attached a value to these appropriated hours. On which days,
however, didn’t the dear man lunch out?Mrs. Wimbush, at such a
crisis, would have rushed round immediately after her own repast. I
went into the dining-room first, postponing the pleasure of seeing
how, upstairs, the lady of the barouche would, on my arrival, point
the moral of my sweet solicitude. No one took such an interest as
herself in his doing only what was good for him, and she was always
on the spot to see that he did it. She made appointments with him
to discuss the best means of economising his time and protecting
his privacy. She further made his health her special business, and
had so much sympathy with my own zeal for it that she was the
author of pleasing fictions on the subject of what my devotion had
led me to give up. I gave up nothing (I don’t count Mr. Pinhorn)
because I had nothing, and all I had as yet achieved was to find
166
myself also in the menagerie. I had dashed in to save my friend, but
I had only got domesticated and wedged; so that I could do little
more for him than exchange with him over people’s heads looks of
intense but futile intelligence.
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Henry James
CHAPTER VII
THE YOUNG LADY in the dining-room had a brave face, black hair, blue
eyes, and in her lap a big volume. “I’ve come for his autograph,” she
said when I had explained to her that I was under bonds to see people
for him when he was occupied. “I’ve been waiting half an hour, but
I’m prepared to wait all day.” I don’t know whether it was this that
told me she was American, for the propensity to wait all day is not in
general characteristic of her race. I was enlightened probably not so
much by the spirit of the utterance as by some quality of its sound. At
any rate I saw she had an individual patience and a lovely frock, to-
gether with an expression that played among her pretty features like a
breeze among flowers. Putting her book on the table she showed me
a massive album, showily bound and full of autographs of price. The
collection of faded notes, of still more faded “thoughts,” of quota-
tions, platitudes, signatures, represented a formidable purpose.
I could only disclose my dread of it. “Most people apply to Mr.
Paraday by letter, you know.”
“Yes, but he doesn’t answer. I’ve written three times.”
“Very true,” I reflected; “the sort of letter you mean goes straight
into the fire.”
“How do you know the sort I mean?” My interlocutress had
blushed and smiled, and in a moment she added: “I don’t believe he
gets many like them!”
“I’m sure they’re beautiful, but he burns without reading.” I didn’t
add that I had convinced him he ought to.
168
“Isn’t he then in danger of burning things of importance?”
“He would perhaps be so if distinguished men hadn’t an infallible
nose for nonsense.”
She looked at me a moment—her face was sweet and gay. “Do
you burn without reading too?”—in answer to which I assured her
that if she’d trust me with her repository I’d see that Mr. Paraday
should write his name in it.
She considered a little. “That’s very well, but it wouldn’t make me
see him.”
“Do you want very much to see him?” It seemed ungracious to catechise
so charming a creature, but somehow I had never yet taken my duty to
the great author so seriously.
“Enough to have come from America for the purpose.”
I stared. “All alone?”
“I don’t see that that’s exactly your business, but if it will make me
more seductive I’ll confess that I’m quite by myself. I had to come
alone or not come at all.”
She was interesting; I could imagine she had lost parents, natural
protectors—could conceive even she had inherited money. I was at
a pass of my own fortunes when keeping hansoms at doors seemed
to me pure swagger. As a trick of this bold and sensitive girl, how-
ever, it became romantic—a part of the general romance of her free-
dom, her errand, her innocence. The confidence of young Ameri-
cans was notorious, and I speedily arrived at a conviction that no
impulse could have been more generous than the impulse that had
operated here. I foresaw at that moment that it would make her my
peculiar charge, just as circumstances had made Neil Paraday. She
would be another person to look after, so that one’s honour would
be concerned in guiding her straight. These things became clearer
to me later on; at the instant I had scepticism enough to observe to
her, as I turned the pages of her volume, that her net had all the
same caught many a big fish. She appeared to have had fruitful
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access to the great ones of the earth; there were people moreover
whose signatures she had presumably secured without a personal
interview. She couldn’t have worried George Washington and
Friedrich Schiller and Hannah More. She met this argument, to my
surprise, by throwing up the album without a pang. It wasn’t even
her own; she was responsible for none of its treasures. It belonged to
a girl-friend in America, a young lady in a western city. This young
lady had insisted on her bringing it, to pick up more autographs:
she thought they might like to see, in Europe, in what company
they would be. The “girl-friend,” the western city, the immortal
names, the curious errand, the idyllic faith, all made a story as strange
to me, and as beguiling, as some tale in the Arabian Nights. Thus it
was that my informant had encumbered herself with the ponderous
tome; but she hastened to assure me that this was the first time she
had brought it out. For her visit to Mr. Paraday it had simply been
a pretext. She didn’t really care a straw that he should write his name;
what she did want was to look straight into his face.
I demurred a little. “And why do you require to do that?”
“Because I just love him!” Before I could recover from the agitat-
ing effect of this crystal ring my companion had continued: “Hasn’t
there ever been any face that you’ve wanted to look into?”
How could I tell her so soon how much I appreciated the oppor-
tunity of looking into hers?I could only assent in general to the
proposition that there were certainly for every one such yearnings,
and even such faces; and I felt the crisis demand all my lucidity, all
my wisdom. “Oh yes, I’m a student of physiognomy. Do you mean,”
I pursued, “that you’ve a passion for Mr. Paraday’s books?”
“They’ve been everything to me and a little more beside—I know
them by heart. They’ve completely taken hold of me. There’s no
author about whom I’m in such a state as I’m in about Neil Paraday.”
“Permit me to remark then,” I presently returned, “that you’re
one of the right sort.”
170
“One of the enthusiasts?Of course I am!”
“Oh there are enthusiasts who are quite of the wrong. I mean
you’re one of those to whom an appeal can be made.”
“An appeal?” Her face lighted as if with the chance of some great
sacrifice.
If she was ready for one it was only waiting for her, and in a mo-
ment I mentioned it. “Give up this crude purpose of seeing him! Go
away without it. That will be far better.”
She looked mystified, then turned visibly pale. “Why, hasn’t he
any personal charm?” The girl was terrible and laughable in her
bright directness.
“Ah that dreadful word ‘personally’!” I wailed; “we’re dying of it,
for you women bring it out with murderous effect. When you meet
with a genius as fine as this idol of ours let him off the dreary duty
of being a personality as well. Know him only by what’s best in him
and spare him for the same sweet sake.”
My young lady continued to look at me in confusion and mis-
trust, and the result of her reflexion on what I had just said was to
make her suddenly break out: “Look here, sir—what’s the matter
with him?”
“The matter with him is that if he doesn’t look out people will eat
a great hole in his life.”
She turned it over. “He hasn’t any disfigurement?”
“Nothing to speak of!”
“Do you mean that social engagements interfere with his occupa-
tions?”
“That but feebly expresses it.”
“So that he can’t give himself up to his beautiful imagination?”
“He’s beset, badgered, bothered—he’s pulled to pieces on the pre-
text of being applauded. People expect him to give them his time,
his golden time, who wouldn’t themselves give five shillings for one
of his books.”
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Henry James
“Five?I’d give five thousand!”
“Give your sympathy—give your forbearance. Two-thirds of those
who approach him only do it to advertise themselves.”
“Why it’s too bad!” the girl exclaimed with the face of an angel.
“It’s the first time I was ever called crude!” she laughed.
I followed up my advantage. “There’s a lady with him now who’s
a terrible complication, and who yet hasn’t read, I’m sure, ten pages
he ever wrote.”
My visitor’s wide eyes grew tenderer. “Then how does she talk—?”
“Without ceasing. I only mention her as a single case. Do you want
to know how to show a superlative consideration?Simply avoid him.”
“Avoid him?” she despairingly breathed.
“Don’t force him to have to take account of you; admire him in
silence, cultivate him at a distance and secretly appropriate his mes-
sage. Do you want to know,” I continued, warming to my idea,
“how to perform an act of homage really sublime?” Then as she
hung on my words: “Succeed in never seeing him at all!”
“Never at all?”—she suppressed a shriek for it.
“The more you get into his writings the less you’ll want to, and
you’ll be immensely sustained by the thought of the good you’re
doing him.”
She looked at me without resentment or spite, and at the truth I
had put before her with candour, credulity, pity. I was afterwards
happy to remember that she must have gathered from my face the
liveliness of my interest in herself. “I think I see what you mean.”
“Oh I express it badly, but I should be delighted if you’d let me
come to see you—to explain it better.”
She made no response to this, and her thoughtful eyes fell on the
big album, on which she presently laid her hands as if to take it
away. “I did use to say out West that they might write a little less for
autographs—to all the great poets, you know—and study the
thoughts and style a little more.”
172
“What do they care for the thoughts and style?They didn’t even
understand you. I’m not sure,” I added, “that I do myself, and I
dare say that you by no means make me out.”
She had got up to go, and though I wanted her to succeed in not
seeing Neil Paraday I wanted her also, inconsequently, to remain in
the house. I was at any rate far from desiring to hustle her off. As
Mrs. Weeks Wimbush, upstairs, was still saving our friend in her
own way, I asked my young lady to let me briefly relate, in illustra-
tion of my point, the little incident of my having gone down into
the country for a profane purpose and been converted on the spot
to holiness. Sinking again into her chair to listen she showed a deep
interest in the anecdote. Then thinking it over gravely she returned
with her odd intonation: “Yes, but you do see him!” I had to admit
that this was the case; and I wasn’t so prepared with an effective
attenuation as I could have wished. She eased the situation off, how-
ever, by the charming quaintness with which she finally said: “Well,
I wouldn’t want him to be lonely!” This time she rose in earnest, but
I persuaded her to let me keep the album to show Mr. Paraday. I
assured her I’d bring it back to her myself. “Well, you’ll find my
address somewhere in it on a paper!” she sighed all resignedly at the
door.
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Henry James
CHAPTER VIII
I BLUSH TO CONFESS IT, but I invited Mr. Paraday that very day to
transcribe into the album one of his most characteristic passages. I
told him how I had got rid of the strange girl who had brought it—
her ominous name was Miss Hurter and she lived at an hotel; quite
agreeing with him moreover as to the wisdom of getting rid with
equal promptitude of the book itself. This was why I carried it to
Albemarle Street no later than on the morrow. I failed to find her at
home, but she wrote to me and I went again; she wanted so much
to hear more about Neil Paraday. I returned repeatedly, I may briefly
declare, to supply her with this information. She had been immensely
taken, the more she thought of it, with that idea of mine
about the act of homage: it had ended by filling her with a generous
rapture. She positively desired to do something sublime for him,
though indeed I could see that, as this particular flight was difficult,
she appreciated the fact that my visits kept her up. I had it on my
conscience to keep her up: I neglected nothing that would contrib-
ute to it, and her conception of our cherished author’s indepen-
dence became at last as fine as his very own. “Read him, read him—
that will be an education in decency,” I constantly repeated; while,
seeking him in his works even as God in nature, she represented
herself as convinced that, according to my assurance, this was the
system that had, as she expressed it, weaned her. We read him to-
gether when I could find time, and the generous creature’s sacrifice
was fed by our communion. There were twenty selfish women about
174
whom I told her and who stirred her to a beautiful rage. Immedi-
ately after my first visit her sister, Mrs. Milsom, came over from
Paris, and the two ladies began to present, as they called it, their
letters. I thanked our stars that none had been presented to Mr.
Paraday. They received invitations and dined out, and some of these
occasions enabled Fanny Hurter to perform, for consistency’s sake,
touching feats of submission. Nothing indeed would now have in-
duced her even to look at the object of her admiration. Once, hear-
ing his name announced at a party, she instantly left the room by
another door and then straightway quitted the house. At another
time when I was at the opera with them—Mrs. Milsom had invited
me to their box—I attempted to point Mr. Paraday out to her in the
stalls. On this she asked her sister to change places with her and,
while that lady devoured the great man through a powerful glass,
presented, all the rest of the evening, her inspired back to the house.
To torment her tenderly I pressed the glass upon her, telling her
how wonderfully near it brought our friend’s handsome head. By
way of answer she simply looked at me in charged silence, letting
me see that tears had gathered in her eyes. These tears, I may re-
mark, produced an effect on me of which the end is not yet. There
was a moment when I felt it my duty to mention them to Neil
Paraday, but I was deterred by the reflexion that there were ques-
tions more relevant to his happiness.
These question indeed, by the end of the season, were reduced to
a single one—the question of reconstituting so far as might be pos-
sible the conditions under which he had produced his best work.
Such conditions could never all come back, for there was a new one
that took up too much place; but some perhaps were not beyond
recall. I wanted above all things to see him sit down to the subject
he had, on my making his acquaintance, read me that admirable
sketch of. Something told me there was no security but in his doing
so before the new factor, as we used to say at Mr. Pinhorn’s, should
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Henry James
render the problem incalculable. It only half-reassured me that the
sketch itself was so copious and so eloquent that even at the worst
there would be the making of a small but complete book, a tiny
volume which, for the faithful, might well become an object of ado-
ration. There would even not be wanting critics to declare, I fore-
saw, that the plan was a thing to be more thankful for than the
structure to have been reared on it. My impatience for the structure,
none the less, grew and grew with the interruptions. He had on
coming up to town begun to sit for his portrait to a young painter,
Mr. Rumble, whose little game, as we also used to say at Mr.
Pinhorn’s, was to be the first to perch on the shoulders of renown.
Mr. Rumble’s studio was a circus in which the man of the hour, and
still more the woman, leaped through the hoops of his showy frames
almost as electrically as they burst into telegrams and “specials.” He
pranced into the exhibitions on their back; he was the reporter on
canvas, the Vandyke up to date, and there was one roaring year in
which Mrs. Bounder and Miss Braby, Guy Walsingham and Dora
Forbes proclaimed in chorus from the same pictured walls that no
one had yet got ahead of him.
Paraday had been promptly caught and saddled, accepting with
characteristic good-humour his confidential hint that to figure in
his show was not so much a consequence as a cause of immortality.
From Mrs. Wimbush to the last “representative” who called to as-
certain his twelve favourite dishes, it was the same ingenuous as-
sumption that he would rejoice in the repercussion. There were
moments when I fancied I might have had more patience with them
if they hadn’t been so fatally benevolent. I hated at all events Mr.
Rumble’s picture, and had my bottled resentment ready when, later
on, I found my distracted friend had been stuffed by Mrs. Wimbush
into the mouth of another cannon. A young artist in whom she was
intensely interested, and who had no connexion with Mr. Rumble,
was to show how far he could make him go. Poor Paraday, in return,
176
was naturally to write something somewhere about the young art-
ist. She played her victims against each other with admirable inge-
nuity, and her establishment was a huge machine in which the tini-
est and the biggest wheels went round to the same treadle. I had a
scene with her in which I tried to express that the function of such
a man was to exercise his genius—not to serve as a hoarding for
pictorial posters. The people I was perhaps angriest with were the
editors of magazines who had introduced what they called new fea-
tures, so aware were they that the newest feature of all would be to
make him grind their axes by contributing his views on vital topics
and taking part in the periodical prattle about the future of fiction.
I made sure that before I should have done with him there would
scarcely be a current form of words left me to be sick of; but mean-
while I could make surer still of my animosity to bustling ladies for
whom he drew the water that irrigated their social flower-beds.
I had a battle with Mrs. Wimbush over the artist she protected,
and another over the question of a certain week, at the end of July,
that Mr. Paraday appeared to have contracted to spend with her in
the country. I protested against this visit; I intimated that he was
too unwell for hospitality without a nuance, for caresses without
imagination; I begged he might rather take the time in some restor-
ative way. A sultry air of promises, of ponderous parties, hung over
his August, and he would greatly profit by the interval of rest. He
hadn’t told me he was ill again that he had had a warning; but I
hadn’t needed this, for I found his reticence his worst symptom.
The only thing he said to me was that he believed a comfortable
attack of something or other would set him up: it would put out of
the question everything but the exemptions he prized. I’m afraid I
shall have presented him as a martyr in a very small cause if I fail to
explain that he surrendered himself much more liberally than I sur-
rendered him. He filled his lungs, for the most part; with the com-
edy of his queer fate: the tragedy was in the spectacles through which
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Henry James
I chose to look. He was conscious of inconvenience, and above all
of a great renouncement; but how could he have heard a mere dirge
in the bells of his accession?The sagacity and the jealousy were
mine, and his the impressions and the harvest. Of course, as regards
Mrs. Wimbush, I was worsted in my encounters, for wasn’t the state
of his health the very reason for his coming to her at Prestidge?
Wasn’t it precisely at Prestidge that he was to be coddled, and wasn’t
the dear Princess coming to help her to coddle him?The dear Prin-
cess, now on a visit to England, was of a famous foreign house, and,
in her gilded cage, with her retinue of keepers and feeders, was the
most expensive specimen in the good lady’s collection. I don’t think
her august presence had had to do with Paraday’s consenting to go,
but it’s not impossible he had operated as a bait to the illustrious
stranger. The party had been made up for him, Mrs. Wimbush
averred, and every one was counting on it, the dear Princess most of
all. If he was well enough he was to read them something absolutely
fresh, and it was on that particular prospect the Princess had set her
heart. She was so fond of genius in anywalk of life, and was so used
to it and understood it so well: she was the greatest of Mr. Paraday’s
admirers, she devoured everything he wrote. And then he read like
an angel. Mrs. Wimbush reminded me that he had again and again
given her, Mrs. Wimbush, the privilege of listening to him.
I looked at her a moment. “What has he read to you?” I crudely
enquired.
For a moment too she met my eyes, and for the fraction of a
moment she hesitated and coloured. “Oh all sorts of things!”
I wondered if this were an imperfect recollection or only a perfect
fib, and she quite understood my unuttered comment on her mea-
sure of such things. But if she could forget Neil Paraday’s beauties
she could of course forget my rudeness, and three days later she
invited me, by telegraph, to join the party at Prestidge. This time
she might indeed have had a story about what I had given up to be
178
near the master. I addressed from that fine residence several com-
munications to a young lady in London, a young lady whom, I
confess, I quitted with reluctance and whom the reminder of what
she herself could give up was required to make me quit at all. It adds
to the gratitude I owe her on other grounds that she kindly allows
me to transcribe from my letters a few of the passages in which that
hateful sojourn is candidly commemorated.
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Henry James
CHAPTER IX
“I SUPPOSE I OUGHT to enjoy the joke of what’s going on here,” I
wrote, “but somehow it doesn’t amuse me. Pessimism on the con-
trary possesses me and cynicism deeply engages. I positively feel my
own flesh sore from the brass nails in Neil Paraday’s social harness.
The house is full of people who like him, as they mention, awfully,
and with whom his talent for talking nonsense has prodigious
success. I delight in his nonsense myself; why is it therefore that I
grudge these happy folk their artless satisfaction?Mystery of the
human heart—abyss of the critical spirit! Mrs. Wimbush thinks she
can answer that question, and as my want of gaiety has at last worn
out her patience she has given me a glimpse of her shrewd guess.
I’m made restless by the selfishness of the insincere friend—I want
to monopolise Paraday in order that he may push me on. To be
intimate with him is a feather in my cap; it gives me an importance
that I couldn’t naturally pretend to, and I seek to deprive him of
social refreshment because I fear that meeting more disinterested
people may enlighten him as to my real motive. All the disinter-
ested people here are his particular admirers and have been carefully
selected as such. There’s supposed to be a copy of his last book in
the house, and in the hall I come upon ladies, in attitudes, bending
gracefully over the first volume. I discreetly avert my eyes, and when
I next look round the precarious joy has been superseded by the
book of life. There’s a sociable circle or a confidential couple, and
the relinquished volume lies open on its face and as dropped under
180
extreme coercion. Somebody else presently finds it and transfers it,
with its air of momentary desolation, to another piece of furniture.
Every one’s asking every one about it all day, and every one’s telling
every one where they put it last. I’m sure it’s rather smudgy about
the twentieth page. I’ve a strong impression, too, that the second
volume is lost—has been packed in the bag of some departing guest;
and yet everybody has the impression that somebody else has read
to the end. You see therefore that the beautiful book plays a great
part in our existence. Why should I take the occasion of such distin-
guished honours to say that I begin to see deeper into Gustave
Flaubert’s doleful refrain about the hatred of literature?I refer you
again to the perverse constitution of man.
“The Princess is a massive lady with the organisation of an athlete
and the confusion of tongues of a valet de place. She contrives to
commit herself extraordinarily little in a great many languages, and
is entertained and conversed with in detachments and relays, like
an institution which goes on from generation to generation or a big
building contracted for under a forfeit. She can’t have a personal
taste any more than, when her husband succeeds, she can have a
personal crown, and her opinion on any matter is rusty and heavy
and plain—made, in the night of ages, to last and be transmitted. I
feel as if I ought to ‘tip’ some custode for my glimpse of it. She has
been told everything in the world and has never perceived anything,
and the echoes of her education respond awfully to the rash foot-
fall—I mean the casual remark—in the cold Valhalla of her memory.
Mrs. Wimbush delights in her wit and says there’s nothing so charm-
ing as to hear Mr. Paraday draw it out. He’s perpetually detailed for
this job, and he tells me it has a peculiarly exhausting effect. Every
one’s beginning—at the end of two days—to sidle obsequiously away
from her, and Mrs. Wimbush pushes him again and again into the
breach. None of the uses I have yet seen him put to infuriate me
quite so much. He looks very fagged and has at last confessed to me
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Henry James
that his condition makes him uneasy—has even promised me he’ll
go straight home instead of returning to his final engagements in
town. Last night I had some talk with him about going to-day, cut-
ting his visit short; so sure am I that he’ll be better as soon as he’s
shut up in his lighthouse. He told me that this is what he would like
to do; reminding me, however, that the first lesson of his
greatness has been precisely that he can’t do what he likes. Mrs.
Wimbush would never forgive him if he should leave her before the
Princess has received the last hand. When I hint that a violent rup-
ture with our hostess would be the best thing in the world for him
he gives me to understand that if his reason assents to the proposi-
tion his courage hangs woefully back. He makes no secret of being
mortally afraid of her, and when I ask what harm she can do him
that she hasn’t already done he simply repeats: ‘I’m afraid, I’m afraid!
Don’t enquire too closely,’ he said last night; ‘only believe that I feel
a sort of terror. It’s strange, when she’s so kind! At any rate, I’d as
soon overturn that piece of priceless Sevres as tell her I must go
before my date.’ It sounds dreadfully weak, but he has some reason,
and he pays for his imagination, which puts him (I should hate it)
in the place of others and makes him feel, even against himself,
their feelings, their appetites, their motives. It’s indeed inveterately
against himself that he makes his imagination act. What a pity he
has such a lot of it! He’s too beastly intelligent. Besides, the famous
reading’s still to come off, and it has been postponed a day to allow
Guy Walsingham to arrive. It appears this eminent lady’s staying at
a house a few miles off, which means of course that Mrs. Wimbush
has forcibly annexed her. She’s to come over in a day or two—Mrs.
Wimbush wants her to hear Mr. Paraday.
“To-day’s wet and cold, and several of the company, at the invita-
tion of the Duke, have driven over to luncheon at Bigwood. I saw
poor Paraday wedge himself, by command, into the little supple-
mentary seat of a brougham in which the Princess and our hostess
182
were already ensconced. If the front glass isn’t open on his dear old
back perhaps he’ll survive. Bigwood, I believe, is very grand and
frigid, all marble and precedence, and I wish him well out of the
adventure. I can’t tell you how much more and more your attitude
to him, in the midst of all this, shines out by contrast. I never will-
ingly talk to these people about him, but see what a comfort I find
it to scribble to you! I appreciate it—it keeps me warm; there are no
fires in the house. Mrs. Wimbush goes by the calendar, the tem-
perature goes by the weather, the weather goes by God knows what,
and the Princess is easily heated. I’ve nothing but my acrimony to
warm me, and have been out under an umbrella to restore my cir-
culation. Coming in an hour ago I found Lady Augusta Minch rum-
maging about the hall. When I asked her what she was looking for
she said she had mislaid something that Mr. Paraday had lent her. I
ascertained in a moment that the article in question is a manu-
script, and I’ve a foreboding that it’s the noble morsel he read me six
weeks ago. When I expressed my surprise that he should have ban-
died about anything so precious (I happen to know it’s his only
copy—in the most beautiful hand in all the world) Lady Augusta
confessed to me that she hadn’t had it from himself, but from Mrs.
Wimbush, who had wished to give her a glimpse of it as a salve for
her not being able to stay and hear it read.
“‘Is that the piece he’s to read,’ I asked, ‘when Guy Walsingham
arrives?’
“‘It’s not for Guy Walsingham they’re waiting now, it’s for Dora
Forbes,’ Lady Augusta said. ‘She’s coming, I believe, early to-mor-
row. Meanwhile Mrs. Wimbush has found out about him, and is
actively wiring to him. She says he also must hear him.’
“‘You bewilder me a little,’ I replied; ‘in the age we live in one gets
lost among the genders and the pronouns. The clear thing is that
Mrs. Wimbush doesn’t guard such a treasure so jealously as she
might.’
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Henry James
“‘Poor dear, she has the Princess to guard! Mr. Paraday lent her
the manuscript to look over.’
“‘She spoke, you mean, as if it were the morning paper?’
“Lady Augusta stared—my irony was lost on her. ‘She didn’t have
time, so she gave me a chance first; because unfortunately I go to-
morrow to Bigwood.’
“‘And your chance has only proved a chance to lose it?’
“‘I haven’t lost it. I remember now—it was very stupid of me to
have forgotten. I told my maid to give it to Lord Dorimont—or at
least to his man.’
“‘And Lord Dorimont went away directly after luncheon.’
“‘Of course he gave it back to my maid—or else his man did,’
said Lady Augusta. ‘I dare say it’s all right.’
“The conscience of these people is like a summer sea. They haven’t
time to look over a priceless composition; they’ve only time to kick
it about the house. I suggested that the ‘man,’ fired with a noble
emulation, had perhaps kept the work for his own perusal; and her
ladyship wanted to know whether, if the thing shouldn’t reappear
for the grand occasion appointed by our hostess, the author wouldn’t
have something else to read that would do just as well. Their ques-
tions are too delightful! I declared to Lady Augusta briefly that noth-
ing in the world can ever do so well as the thing that does best; and
at this she looked a little disconcerted. But I added that if the manu-
script had gone astray our little circle would have the less of an
effort of attention to make. The piece in question was very long—it
would keep them three hours.
“‘Three hours! Oh the Princess will get up!’ said Lady Augusta.
“‘I thought she was Mr. Paraday’s greatest admirer.’
“‘I dare say she is—she’s so awfully clever. But what’s the use of
being a Princess—‘
“‘If you can’t dissemble your love?’ I asked as Lady Augusta was
vague. She said at any rate she’d question her maid; and I’m hoping
184
that when I go down to dinner I shall find the manuscript has been
recovered.”
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Henry James
CHAPTER X
“IT HAS NOT BEEN RECOVERED,” I wrote early the next day, “and I’m
moreover much troubled about our friend. He came back from
Bigwood with a chill and, being allowed to have a fire in his room,
lay down a while before dinner. I tried to send him to bed and
indeed thought I had put him in the way of it; but after I had gone
to dress Mrs. Wimbush came up to see him, with the inevitable
result that when I returned I found him under arms and flushed
and feverish, though decorated with the rare flower she had brought
him for his button-hole. He came down to dinner, but Lady Au-
gusta Minch was very shy of him. To-day he’s in great pain, and the
advent of ces dames—I mean of Guy Walsingham and Dora
Forbes—doesn’t at all console me. It does Mrs. Wimbush, however,
for she has consented to his remaining in bed so that he may be all
right to-morrow for the listening circle. Guy Walsingham’s already
on the scene, and the Doctor for Paraday also arrived early. I haven’t
yet seen the author of ‘Obsessions,’ but of course I’ve had a mo-
ment by myself with the Doctor. I tried to get him to say that our
invalid must go straight home—I mean to-morrow or next day; but
he quite refuses to talk about the future. Absolute quiet and warmth
and the regular administration of an important remedy are the points
he mainly insists on. He returns this afternoon, and I’m to go back
to see the patient at one o’clock, when he next takes his medicine. It
consoles me a little that he certainly won’t be able to read—an exer-
tion he was already more than unfit for. Lady Augusta went off after
186
breakfast, assuring me her first care would be to follow up the lost
manuscript. I can see she thinks me a shocking busybody and doesn’t
understand my alarm, but she’ll do what she can, for she’s a good-
natured woman. ‘So are they all honourable men.’ That was pre-
cisely what made her give the thing to Lord Dorimont and made
Lord Dorimont bag it. What use hehas for it God only knows. I’ve
the worst forebodings, but somehow I’m strangely without passion—
desperately calm. As I consider the unconscious, the well-meaning
ravages of our appreciative circle I bow my head in submission to
some great natural, some universal accident; I’m rendered almost
indifferent, in fact quite gay (ha-ha!) by the sense of immitigable
fate. Lady Augusta promises me to trace the precious object and let
me have it through the post by the time Paraday’s well enough to
play his part with it. The last evidence is that her maid did give it to
his lordship’s valet. One would suppose it some thrilling number of
thefamily budget. Mrs. Wimbush, who’s aware of the accident, is
much less agitated by it than she would doubtless be were she not
for the hour inevitably engrossed with Guy Walsingham.”
Later in the day I informed my correspondent, for whom indeed
I kept a loose diary of the situation, that I had made the acquain-
tance of this celebrity and that she was a pretty little girl who wore
her hair in what used to be called a crop. She looked so juvenile and
so innocent that if, as Mr. Morrow had announced, she was re-
signed to the larger latitude, her superiority to prejudice must have
come to her early. I spent most of the day hovering about Neil
Paraday’s room, but it was communicated to me from below that
Guy Walsingham, at Prestidge, was a success. Toward evening I be-
came conscious somehow that her superiority was contagious, and
by the time the company separated for the night I was sure the
larger latitude had been generally accepted. I thought of Dora Forbes
and felt that he had no time to lose. Before dinner I received a
telegram from Lady Augusta Minch. “Lord Dorimont thinks he
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Henry James
must have left bundle in train—enquire.” How could I enquire—if
I was to take the word as a command?I was too worried and now
too alarmed about Neil Paraday. The Doctor came back, and it was
an immense satisfaction to me to be sure he was wise and interested.
He was proud of being called to so distinguished a patient, but he
admitted to me that night that my friend was gravely ill. It was
really a relapse, a recrudescence of his old malady. There could be
no question of moving him: we must at any rate see first, on the
spot, what turn his condition would take. Meanwhile, on the mor-
row, he was to have a nurse. On the morrow the dear man was
easier, and my spirits rose to such cheerfulness that I could almost
laugh over Lady Augusta’s second telegram: “Lord Dorimont’s ser-
vant been to station—nothing found. Push enquiries.” I did laugh,
I’m sure, as I remembered this to be the mystic scroll I had scarcely
allowed poor Mr. Morrow to point his umbrella at. Fool that I had
been: the thirty-seven influential journals wouldn’t have destroyed
it, they’d only have printed it. Of course I said nothing to Paraday.
When the nurse arrived she turned me out of the room, on which
I went downstairs. I should premise that at breakfast the news that
our brilliant friend was doing well excited universal complacency,
and the Princess graciously remarked that he was only to be com-
miserated for missing the society of Miss Collop. Mrs. Wimbush,
whose social gift never shone brighter than in the dry decorum with
which she accepted this fizzle in her fireworks, mentioned to me
that Guy Walsingham had made a very favourable impression on
her Imperial Highness. Indeed I think every one did so, and that,
like the money-market or the national honour, her Imperial High-
ness was constitutionally sensitive. There was a certain gladness, a
perceptible bustle in the air, however, which I thought slightly
anomalous in a house where a great author lay critically ill. “Leroy
est mort—viveleroy”: I was reminded that another great author had
already stepped into his shoes. When I came down again after the
188
nurse had taken possession I found a strange gentleman hanging
about the hall and pacing to and fro by the closed door of the draw-
ing-room. This personage was florid and bald; he had a big red
moustache and wore showy knickerbockers—characteristics all that
fitted to my conception of the identity of Dora Forbes. In a mo-
ment I saw what had happened: the author of “The Other Way
Round” had just alighted at the portals of Prestidge, but had suf-
fered a scruple to restrain him from penetrating further. I recognised
his scruple when, pausing to listen at his gesture of caution, I heard
a shrill voice lifted in a sort of rhythmic uncanny chant. The fa-
mous reading had begun, only it was the author of “Obsessions”
who now furnished the sacrifice. The new visitor whispered to me
that he judged something was going on he oughtn’t to interrupt.
“Miss Collop arrived last night,” I smiled, “and the Princess has a
thirst for the inedit.”
Dora Forbes lifted his bushy brows. “Miss Collop?”
“Guy Walsingham, your distinguished confrere—or shall I say
your formidable rival?”
“Oh!” growled Dora Forbes. Then he added: “Shall I spoil it if I
go in?”
“I should think nothing could spoil it!” I ambiguously laughed.
Dora Forbes evidently felt the dilemma; he gave an irritated crook
to his moustache. “Shall I go in?” he presently asked.
We looked at each other hard a moment; then I expressed some-
thing bitter that was in me, expressed it in an infernal “Do!” After this
I got out into the air, but not so fast as not to hear, when the door of
the drawing-room opened, the disconcerted drop of Miss Collop’s
public manner: she must have been in the midst of the larger latitude.
Producing with extreme rapidity, Guy Walsingham has just published
a work in which amiable people who are not initiated have been pained
to see the genius of a sister-novelist held up to unmistakeable ridicule;
so fresh an exhibition does it seem to them of the dreadful way men
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Henry James
have always treated women. Dora Forbes, it’s true, at the present hour,
is immensely pushed by Mrs. Wimbush and has sat for his portrait to
the young artists she protects, sat for it not only in oils but in monu-
mental alabaster.
What happened at Prestidge later in the day is of course
contemporary history. If the interruption I had whimsically sanc-
tioned was almost a scandal, what is to be said of that general scatter
of the company which, under the Doctor’s rule, began to take place
in the evening?His rule was soothing to behold, small comfort as I
was to have at the end. He decreed in the interest of his patient an
absolutely soundless house and a consequent break-up of the party.
Little country practitioner as he was, he literally packed off the Prin-
cess. She departed as promptly as if a revolution had broken out,
and Guy Walsingham emigrated with her. I was kindly permitted to
remain, and this was not denied even to Mrs. Wimbush. The privi-
lege was withheld indeed from Dora Forbes; so Mrs. Wimbush kept
her latest capture temporarily concealed. This was so little, how-
ever, her usual way of dealing with her eminent friends that a couple
of days of it exhausted her patience, and she went up to town with
him in great publicity. The sudden turn for the worse her afflicted
guest had, after a brief improvement, taken on the third night raised
an obstacle to her seeing him before her retreat; a fortunate circum-
stance doubtless, for she was fundamentally disappointed in him.
This was not the kind of performance for which she had invited
him to Prestidge, let alone invited the Princess. I must add that
none of the generous acts marking her patronage of intellectual and
other merit have done so much for her reputation as her lending
Neil Paraday the most beautiful of her numerous homes to die in.
He took advantage to the utmost of the singular favour. Day by day
I saw him sink, and I roamed alone about the empty terraces and
gardens. His wife never came near him, but I scarcely noticed it: as
I paced there with rage in my heart I was too full of another wrong.
190
In the event of his death it would fall to me perhaps to bring out in
some charming form, with notes, with the tenderest editorial care,
that precious heritage of his written project. But where was that
precious heritage and were both the author and the book to have
been snatched from us?Lady Augusta wrote me that she had done
all she could and that poor Lord Dorimont, who had really been
worried to death, was extremely sorry. I couldn’t have the matter
out with Mrs. Wimbush, for I didn’t want to be taunted by her with
desiring to aggrandise myself by a public connexion with Mr.
Paraday’s sweepings. She had signified her willingness to meet the
expense of all advertising, as indeed she was always ready to do. The
last night of the horrible series, the night before he died, I put my
ear closer to his pillow.
“That thing I read you that morning, you know.”
“In your garden that dreadful day?Yes!”
“Won’t it do as it is?”
“It would have been a glorious book.”
“It isa glorious book,” Neil Paraday murmured. “Print it as it
stands—beautifully.”
“Beautifully!” I passionately promised.
It may be imagined whether, now that he’s gone, the promise
seems to me less sacred. I’m convinced that if such pages had ap-
peared in his lifetime the Abbey would hold him to-day. I’ve kept
the advertising in my own hands, but the manuscript has not been
recovered. It’s impossible, and at any rate intolerable, to suppose it
can have been wantonly destroyed. Perhaps some hazard of a blind
hand, some brutal fatal ignorance has lighted kitchen-fires with it.
Every stupid and hideous accident haunts my meditations. My
undiscourageable search for the lost treasure would make a long
chapter. Fortunately I’ve a devoted associate in the person of a young
lady who has every day a fresh indignation and a fresh idea, and
who maintains with intensity that the prize will still turn up. Some-
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191
Henry James
times I believe her, but I’ve quite ceased to believe myself. The only
thing for us at all events is to go on seeking and hoping together;
and we should be closely united by this firm tie even were we not at
present by another.
192
The Diary of a Man
of Fifty
by
Henry James
FLORENCE, APRIL 5TH, 1874.—They told me I should find Italy
greatly changed; and in seven-and-twenty years there is room for
changes. But to me everything is so perfectly the same that I seem
to be living my youth over again; all the forgotten impressions of
that enchanting time come back to me. At the moment they were
powerful enough; but they afterwards faded away. What in the world
became of them?Whatever becomes of such things, in the long
intervals of consciousness?Where do they hide themselves away?in
what unvisited cupboards and crannies of our being do they pre-
serve themselves?They are like the lines of a letter written in sympa-
thetic ink; hold the letter to the fire for a while and the grateful
warmth brings out the invisible words. It is the warmth of this yel-
low sun of Florence that has been restoring the text of my own
young romance; the thing has been lying before me today as a clear,
fresh page. There have been moments during the last ten years when
I have fell so portentously old, so fagged and finished, that I should
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Henry James
have taken as a very bad joke any intimation that this present sense
of juvenility was still in store for me. It won’t last, at any rate; so I
had better make the best of it. But I confess it surprises me. I have
led too serious a life; but that perhaps, after all, preserves one’s youth.
At all events, I have travelled too far, I have worked too hard, I have
lived in brutal climates and associated with tiresome people. When
a man has reached his fifty-second year without being, materially,
the worse for wear—when he has fair health, a fair fortune, a tidy
conscience and a complete exemption from embarrassing relatives—
I suppose he is bound, in delicacy, to write himself happy. But I
confess I shirk this obligation. I have not been miserable; I won’t go
so far as to say that—or at least as to write it. But happiness—
positive happiness—would have been something different. I don’t
know that it would have been better, by all measurements—that it
would have left me better off at the present time. But it certainly
would have made this difference—that I should not have been re-
duced, in pursuit of pleasant images, to disinter a buried episode of
more than a quarter of a century ago. I should have found enter-
tainment more—what shall I call it?—more contemporaneous. I
should have had a wife and children, and I should not be in the way
of making, as the French say, infidelities to the present. Of course
it’s a great gain to have had an escape, not to have committed an act
of thumping folly; and I suppose that, whatever serious step one
might have taken at twenty-five, after a struggle, and with a violent
effort, and however one’s conduct might appear to be justified by
events, there would always remain a certain element of regret; a
certain sense of loss lurking in the sense of gain; a tendency to won-
der, rather wishfully, what might have been. What might have been,
in this case, would, without doubt, have been very sad, and what
has been has been very cheerful and comfortable; but there are nev-
ertheless two or three questions I might ask myself. Why, for in-
stance, have I never married—why have I never been able to care
194
for any woman as I cared for that one?Ah, why are the mountains
blue and why is the sunshine warm?Happiness mitigated by imper-
tinent conjectures—that’s about my ticket.
6TH.—I knew it wouldn’t last; it’s already passing away. But I have
spent a delightful day; I have been strolling all over the place. Every-
thing reminds me of something else, and yet of itself at the same
time; my imagination makes a great circuit and comes back to the
starting-point. There is that well-remembered odour of spring in
the air, and the flowers, as they used to be, are gathered into great
sheaves and stacks, all along the rugged base of the Strozzi Palace. I
wandered for an hour in the Boboli Gardens; we went there several
times together. I remember all those days individually; they seem to
me as yesterday. I found the corner where she always chose to sit—
the bench of sun-warmed marble, in front of the screen of ilex, with
that exuberant statue of Pomona just beside it. The place is exactly
the same, except that poor Pomona has lost one of her tapering fin-
gers. I sat there for half an hour, and it was strange how near to me she
seemed. The place was perfectly empty—that is, it was filled with
HER. I closed my eyes and listened; I could almost hear the rustle of
her dress on the gravel. Why do we make such an ado about death?
What is it, after all, but a sort of refinement of life?She died ten years
ago, and yet, as I sat there in the sunny stillness, she was a palpable,
audible presence. I went afterwards into the gallery of the palace, and
wandered for an hour from room to room. The same great pictures
hung in the same places, and the same dark frescoes arched above
them. Twice, of old, I went there with her; she had a great under-
standing of art. She understood all sorts of things. Before the Ma-
donna of the Chair I stood a long time. The face is not a particle like
hers, and yet it reminded me of her. But everything does that. We
stood and looked at it together once for half an hour; I remember
perfectly what she said.
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Henry James
8TH.—Yesterday I felt blue—blue and bored; and when I got up
this morning I had half a mind to leave Florence. But I went out
into the street, beside the Arno, and looked up and down—looked
at the yellow river and the violet hills, and then decided to remain—
or rather, I decided nothing. I simply stood gazing at the beauty of
Florence, and before I had gazed my fill I was in good-humour
again, and it was too late to start for Rome. I strolled along the
quay, where something presently happened that rewarded me for
staying. I stopped in front of a little jeweller’s shop, where a great
many objects in mosaic were exposed in the window; I stood there
for some minutes—I don’t know why, for I have no taste for mo-
saic. In a moment a little girl came and stood beside me—a little
girl with a frowsy Italian head, carrying a basket. I turned away, but,
as I turned, my eyes happened to fall on her basket. It was covered
with a napkin, and on the napkin was pinned a piece of paper, in-
scribed with an address. This address caught my glance—there was
a name on it I knew. It was very legibly written—evidently by a
scribe who had made up in zeal what was lacking in skill. Contessa
Salvi-Scarabelli, Via Ghibellina—so ran the superscription; I looked
at it for some moments; it caused me a sudden emotion. Presently
the little girl, becoming aware of my attention, glanced up at me,
wondering, with a pair of timid brown eyes.
“Are you carrying your basket to the Countess Salvi?” I asked.
The child stared at me. “To the Countess Scarabelli.”
“Do you know the Countess?”
“Know her?” murmured the child, with an air of small dismay.
“I mean, have you seen her?”
“Yes, I have seen her.” And then, in a moment, with a sudden soft
smile—”E bella!” said the little girl. She was beautiful herself as she
said it.
“Precisely; and is she fair or dark?”
The child kept gazing at me. “Bionda—bionda,” she answered,
196
looking about into the golden sunshine for a comparison.
“And is she young?”
“She is not young—like me. But she is not old like—like—”
“Like me, eh?And is she married?”
The little girl began to look wise. “I have never seen the Signor
Conte.”
“And she lives in Via Ghibellina?”
“Sicuro. In a beautiful palace.”
I had one more question to ask, and I pointed it with certain
copper coins. “Tell me a little—is she good?”
The child inspected a moment the contents of her little brown
fist. “It’s you who are good,” she answered.
“Ah, but the Countess?” I repeated.
My informant lowered her big brown eyes, with an air of consci-
entious meditation that was inexpressibly quaint. “To me she ap-
pears so,” she said at last, looking up.
“Ah, then, she must be so,” I said, “because, for your age, you are
very intelligent.” And having delivered myself of this compliment I
walked away and left the little girl counting her soldi.
I walked back to the hotel, wondering how I could learn some-
thing about the Contessa Salvi-Scarabelli. In the doorway I found
the innkeeper, and near him stood a young man whom I immedi-
ately perceived to be a compatriot, and with whom, apparently, he
had been in conversation.
“I wonder whether you can give me a piece of information,” I said
to the landlord. “Do you know anything about the Count Salvi-
Scarabelli?”
The landlord looked down at his boots, then slowly raised his shoul-
ders, with a melancholy smile. “I have many regrets, dear sir—”
“You don’t know the name?”
“I know the name, assuredly. But I don’t know the gentleman.”
I saw that my question had attracted the attention of the young
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197
Henry James
Englishman, who looked at me with a good deal of earnestness. He
was apparently satisfied with what he saw, for he presently decided
to speak.
“The Count Scarabelli is dead,” he said, very gravely.
I looked at him a moment; he was a pleasing young fellow. “And
his widow lives,” I observed, “in Via Ghibellina?”
“I daresay that is the name of the street.” He was a handsome
young Englishman, but he was also an awkward one; he wondered
who I was and what I wanted, and he did me the honour to perceive
that, as regards these points, my appearance was reassuring. But he
hesitated, very properly, to talk with a perfect stranger about a lady
whom he knew, and he had not the art to conceal his hesitation. I
instantly felt it to be singular that though he regarded me as a per-
fect stranger, I had not the same feeling about him. Whether it was
that I had seen him before, or simply that I was struck with his
agreeable young face—at any rate, I felt myself, as they say here, in
sympathy with him. If I have seen him before I don’t remember the
occasion, and neither, apparently, does he; I suppose it’s only a part
of the feeling I have had the last three days about everything. It was
this feeling that made me suddenly act as if I had known him a long
time.
“Do you know the Countess Salvi?” I asked.
He looked at me a little, and then, without resenting the freedom
of my question—”The Countess Scarabelli, you mean,” he said.
“Yes,” I answered; “she’s the daughter.”
“The daughter is a little girl.”
“She must be grown up now. She must be—let me see—close
upon thirty.”
My young Englishman began to smile. “Of whom are you speak-
ing?”
“I was speaking of the daughter,” I said, understanding his smile.
“But I was thinking of the mother.”
198
“Of the mother?”
“Of a person I knew twenty-seven years ago—the most charming
woman I have ever known. She was the Countess Salvi—she lived
in a wonderful old house in Via Ghibellina.”
“A wonderful old house!” my young Englishman repeated.
“She had a little girl,” I went on; “and the little girl was very fair,
like her mother; and the mother and daughter had the same name—
Bianca.” I stopped and looked at my companion, and he blushed a
little. “And Bianca Salvi,” I continued, “was the most charming
woman in the world.” He blushed a little more, and I laid my hand
on his shoulder. “Do you know why I tell you this?Because you
remind me of what I was when I knew her—when I loved her.” My
poor young Englishman gazed at me with a sort of embarrassed and
fascinated stare, and still I went on. “I say that’s the reason I told
you this—but you’ll think it a strange reason. You remind me of my
younger self. You needn’t resent that—I was a charming young fel-
low. The Countess Salvi thought so. Her daughter thinks the same
of you.”
Instantly, instinctively, he raised his hand to my arm. “Truly?”
“Ah, you are wonderfully like me!” I said, laughing. “That was
just my state of mind. I wanted tremendously to please her.” He
dropped his hand and looked away, smiling, but with an air of in-
genuous confusion which quickened my interest in him. “You don’t
know what to make of me,” I pursued. “You don’t know why a
stranger should suddenly address you in this way and pretend to
read your thoughts. Doubtless you think me a little cracked. Per-
haps I am eccentric; but it’s not so bad as that. I have lived about the
world a great deal, following my profession, which is that of a sol-
dier. I have been in India, in Africa, in Canada, and I have lived a
good deal alone. That inclines people, I think, to sudden bursts of
confidence. A week ago I came into Italy, where I spent six months
when I was your age. I came straight to Florence—I was eager to see
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Henry James
it again, on account of associations. They have been crowding upon
me ever so thickly. I have taken the liberty of giving you a hint of
them.” The young man inclined himself a little, in silence, as if he
had been struck with a sudden respect. He stood and looked away
for a moment at the river and the mountains. “It’s very beautiful,” I
said.
“Oh, it’s enchanting,” he murmured.
“That’s the way I used to talk. But that’s nothing to you.”
He glanced at me again. “On the contrary, I like to hear.”
“Well, then, let us take a walk. If you too are staying at this inn,
we are fellow-travellers. We will walk down the Arno to the Cascine.
There are several things I should like to ask of you.”
My young Englishman assented with an air of almost filial confi-
dence, and we strolled for an hour beside the river and through the
shady alleys of that lovely wilderness. We had a great deal of talk: it’s
not only myself, it’s my whole situation over again.
“Are you very fond of Italy?” I asked.
He hesitated a moment. “One can’t express that.”
“Just so; I couldn’t express it. I used to try—I used to write verses.
On the subject of Italy I was very ridiculous.”
“So am I ridiculous,” said my companion.
“No, my dear boy,” I answered, “we are not ridiculous; we are two
very reasonable, superior people.”
“The first time one comes—as I have done—it’s a revelation.”
“Oh, I remember well; one never forgets it. It’s an introduction to
beauty.”
“And it must be a great pleasure,” said my young friend, “to come
back.”
“Yes, fortunately the beauty is always here. What form of it,” I
asked, “do you prefer?”
My companion looked a little mystified; and at last he said, “I am
very fond of the pictures.”
200
“So was I. And among the pictures, which do you like best?”
“Oh, a great many.”
“So did I; but I had certain favourites.”
Again the young man hesitated a little, and then he confessed that
the group of painters he preferred, on the whole, to all others, was
that of the early Florentines.
I was so struck with this that I stopped short. “That was exactly
my taste!” And then I passed my hand into his arm and we went our
way again.
We sat down on an old stone bench in the Cascine, and a solemn
blank-eyed Hermes, with wrinkles accentuated by the dust of ages,
stood above us and listened to our talk.
“The Countess Salvi died ten years ago,” I said.
My companion admitted that he had heard her daughter say so.
“After I knew her she married again,” I added. “The Count Salvi
died before I knew her—a couple of years after their marriage.”
“Yes, I have heard that.”
“And what else have you heard?”
My companion stared at me; he had evidently heard nothing.
“She was a very interesting woman—there are a great many things
to be said about her. Later, perhaps, I will tell you. Has the daughter
the same charm?”
“You forget,” said my young man, smiling, “that I have never seen
the mother.”
“Very true. I keep confounding. But the daughter—how long have
you known her?”
“Only since I have been here. A very short time.”
“A week?”
For a moment he said nothing. “A month.”
“That’s just the answer I should have made. A week, a month—it
was all the same to me.”
“I think it is more than a month,” said the young man.
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201
Henry James
“It’s probably six. How did you make her acquaintance?”
“By a letter—an introduction given me by a friend in England.”
“The analogy is complete,” I said. “But the friend who gave me
my letter to Madame de Salvi died many years ago. He, too, ad-
mired her greatly. I don’t know why it never came into my mind
that her daughter might be living in Florence. Somehow I took for
granted it was all over. I never thought of the little girl; I never heard
what had become of her. I walked past the palace yesterday and saw
that it was occupied; but I took for granted it had changed hands.”
“The Countess Scarabelli,” said my friend, “brought it to her hus-
band as her marriage-portion.”
“I hope he appreciated it! There is a fountain in the court, and
there is a charming old garden beyond it. The Countess’s sitting-
room looks into that garden. The staircase is of white marble, and
there is a medallion by Luca della Robbia set into the wall at the
place where it makes a bend. Before you come into the drawing-
room you stand a moment in a great vaulted place hung round with
faded tapestry, paved with bare tiles, and furnished only with three
chairs. In the drawing-room, above the fireplace, is a superb Andrea
del Sarto. The furniture is covered with pale sea-green.”
My companion listened to all this.
“The Andrea del Sarto is there; it’s magnificent. But the furniture
is in pale red.”
“Ah, they have changed it, then—in twenty-seven years.”
“And there’s a portrait of Madame de Salvi,” continued my friend.
I was silent a moment. “I should like to see that.”
He too was silent. Then he asked, “Why don’t you go and see it?If
you knew the mother so well, why don’t you call upon the daughter?”
“From what you tell me I am afraid.”
“What have I told you to make you afraid?”
I looked a little at his ingenuous countenance. “The mother was a
very dangerous woman.”
202
The young Englishman began to blush again. “The daughter is
not,” he said.
“Are you very sure?”
He didn’t say he was sure, but he presently inquired in what way
the Countess Salvi had been dangerous.
“You must not ask me that,” I answered “for after all, I desire to
remember only what was good in her.” And as we walked back I
begged him to render me the service of mentioning my name to his
friend, and of saying that I had known her mother well, and that I
asked permission to come and see her.
9TH.—I have seen that poor boy half a dozen times again, and a
most amiable young fellow he is. He continues to represent to me,
in the most extraordinary manner, my own young identity; the cor-
respondence is perfect at all points, save that he is a better boy than
I. He is evidently acutely interested in his Countess, and leads quite
the same life with her that I led with Madame de Salvi. He goes to
see her every evening and stays half the night; these Florentines
keep the most extraordinary hours. I remember, towards 3 A.M.,
Madame de Salvi used to turn me out.—”Come, come,” she would
say, “it’s time to go. If you were to stay later people might talk.” I
don’t know at what time he comes home, but I suppose his evening
seems as short as mine did. Today he brought me a message from
his Contessa—a very gracious little speech. She remembered often
to have heard her mother speak of me—she called me her English
friend. All her mother’s friends were dear to her, and she begged I
would do her the honour to come and see her. She is always at home
of an evening. Poor young Stanmer (he is of the Devonshire
Stanmers—a great property) reported this speech verbatim, and of
course it can’t in the least signify to him that a poor grizzled, bat-
tered soldier, old enough to be his father, should come to call upon
his inammorata. But I remember how it used to matter to me when
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Henry James
other men came; that’s a point of difference. However, it’s only be-
cause I’m so old. At twenty-five I shouldn’t have been afraid of my-
self at fifty-two. Camerino was thirty-four—and then the others!
She was always at home in the evening, and they all used to come.
They were old Florentine names. But she used to let me stay after
them all; she thought an old English name as good. What a tran-
scendent coquette! … But basta cosi as she used to say. I meant to
go tonight to Casa Salvi, but I couldn’t bring myself to the point. I
don’t know what I’m afraid of; I used to be in a hurry enough to go
there once. I suppose I am afraid of the very look of the place—of
the old rooms, the old walls. I shall go tomorrow night. I am afraid
of the very echoes.
10TH.—She has the most extraordinary resemblance to her mother.
When I went in I was tremendously startled; I stood starting at her.
I have just come home; it is past midnight; I have been all the evening
at Casa Salvi. It is very warm—my window is open—I can look out
on the river gliding past in the starlight. So, of old, when I came
home, I used to stand and look out. There are the same cypresses on
the opposite hills.
Poor young Stanmer was there, and three or four other admirers;
they all got up when I came in. I think I had been talked about, and
there was some curiosity. But why should I have been talked about?
They were all youngish men—none of them of my time. She is a
wonderful likeness of her mother; I couldn’t get over it. Beautiful
like her mother, and yet with the same faults in her face; but with
her mother’s perfect head and brow and sympathetic, almost pity-
ing, eyes. Her face has just that peculiarity of her mother’s, which,
of all human countenances that I have ever known, was the one that
passed most quickly and completely from the expression of gaiety
to that of repose. Repose in her face always suggested sadness; and
while you were watching it with a kind of awe, and wondering of
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what tragic secret it was the token, it kindled, on the instant, into a
radiant Italian smile. The Countess Scarabelli’s smiles tonight, how-
ever, were almost uninterrupted. She greeted me—divinely, as her
mother used to do; and young Stanmer sat in the corner of the
sofa—as I used to do—and watched her while she talked. She is
thin and very fair, and was dressed in light, vaporous black that
completes the resemblance. The house, the rooms, are almost abso-
lutely the same; there may be changes of detail, but they don’t modify
the general effect. There are the same precious pictures on the walls
of the salon—the same great dusky fresco in the concave ceiling.
The daughter is not rich, I suppose, any more than the mother. The
furniture is worn and faded, and I was admitted by a solitary ser-
vant, who carried a twinkling taper before me up the great dark
marble staircase.
“I have often heard of you,” said the Countess, as I sat down near
her; “my mother often spoke of you.”
“Often?” I answered. “I am surprised at that.”
“Why are you surprised?Were you not good friends?”
“Yes, for a certain time—very good friends. But I was sure she had
forgotten me.”
“She never forgot,” said the Countess, looking at me intently and
smiling. “She was not like that.”
“She was not like most other women in any way,” I declared.
“Ah, she was charming,” cried the Countess, rattling open her
fan. “I have always been very curious to see you. I have received an
impression of you.”
“A good one, I hope.”
She looked at me, laughing, and not answering this: it was just
her mother’s trick.
“‘My Englishman,’ she used to call you—’il mio Inglese.’”
“I hope she spoke of me kindly,” I insisted.
The Countess, still laughing, gave a little shrug balancing her hand
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Henry James
to and fro. “So-so; I always supposed you had had a quarrel. You
don’t mind my being frank like this—eh?”
“I delight in it; it reminds me of your mother.”
“Every one tells me that. But I am not clever like her. You will see
for yourself.”
“That speech,” I said, “completes the resemblance. She was al-
ways pretending she was not clever, and in reality—”
“In reality she was an angel, eh?To escape from dangerous com-
parisons I will admit, then, that I am clever. That will make a differ-
ence. But let us talk of you. You are very—how shall I say it?—very
eccentric.”
“Is that what your mother told you?”
“To tell the truth, she spoke of you as a great original. But aren’t
all Englishmen eccentric?All except that one!” and the Countess
pointed to poor Stanmer, in his corner of the sofa.
“Oh, I know just what he is,” I said.
“He’s as quiet as a lamb—he’s like all the world,” cried the Countess.
“Like all the world—yes. He is in love with you.”
She looked at me with sudden gravity. “I don’t object to your
saying that for all the world—but I do for him.”
“Well,” I went on, “he is peculiar in this: he is rather afraid of
you.”
Instantly she began to smile; she turned her face toward Stanmer.
He had seen that we were talking about him; he coloured and got
up—then came toward us.
“I like men who are afraid of nothing,” said our hostess.
“I know what you want,” I said to Stanmer. “You want to know
what the Signora Contessa says about you.”
Stanmer looked straight into her face, very gravely. “I don’t care a
straw what she says.”
“You are almost a match for the Signora Contessa,” I answered.
“She declares she doesn’t care a pin’s head what you think.”
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“I recognise the Countess’s style!” Stanmer exclaimed, turning away.
“One would think,” said the Countess, “that you were trying to
make a quarrel between us.”
I watched him move away to another part of the great saloon; he
stood in front of the Andrea del Sarto, looking up at it. But he was
not seeing it; he was listening to what we might say. I often stood
there in just that way. “He can’t quarrel with you, any more than I
could have quarrelled with your mother.”
“Ah, but you did. Something painful passed between you.”
“Yes, it was painful, but it was not a quarrel. I went away one day
and never saw her again. That was all.”
The Countess looked at me gravely. “What do you call it when a
man does that?”
“It depends upon the case.”
“Sometimes,” said the Countess in French, “it’s a lachete.”
“Yes, and sometimes it’s an act of wisdom.”
“And sometimes,” rejoined the Countess, “it’s a mistake.”
I shook my head. “For me it was no mistake.”
She began to laugh again. “Caro Signore, you’re a great original.
What had my poor mother done to you?”
I looked at our young Englishman, who still had his back turned
to us and was staring up at the picture. “I will tell you some other
time,” I said.
“I shall certainly remind you; I am very curious to know.” Then
she opened and shut her fan two or three times, still looking at me.
What eyes they have! “Tell me a little,” she went on, “if I may ask
without indiscretion. Are you married?”
“No, Signora Contessa.”
“Isn’t that at least a mistake?”
“Do I look very unhappy?”
She dropped her head a little to one side. “For an Englishman—no!”
“Ah,” said I, laughing, “you are quite as clever as your mother.”
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Henry James
“And they tell me that you are a great soldier,” she continued;
“you have lived in India. It was very kind of you, so far away, to have
remembered our poor dear Italy.”
“One always remembers Italy; the distance makes no difference. I
remembered it well the day I heard of your mother’s death!”
“Ah, that was a sorrow!” said the Countess. “There’s not a day
that I don’t weep for her. But che vuole?She’s a saint its paradise.”
“Sicuro,” I answered; and I looked some time at the ground. “But
tell me about yourself, dear lady,” I asked at last, raising my eyes.
“You have also had the sorrow of losing your husband.”
“I am a poor widow, as you see. Che vuole?My husband died
after three years of marriage.”
I waited for her to remark that the late Count Scarabelli was also
a saint in paradise, but I waited in vain.
“That was like your distinguished father,” I said.
“Yes, he too died young. I can’t be said to have known him; I was
but of the age of my own little girl. But I weep for him all the more.”
Again I was silent for a moment.
“It was in India too,” I said presently, “that I heard of your mother’s
second marriage.”
The Countess raised her eyebrows.
“In India, then, one hears of everything! Did that news please
you?”
“Well, since you ask me—no.”
“I understand that,” said the Countess, looking at her open fan.
“I shall not marry again like that.”
“That’s what your mother said to me,” I ventured to observe.
She was not offended, but she rose from her seat and stood look-
ing at me a moment. Then—“You should not have gone away!” she
exclaimed. I stayed for another hour; it is a very pleasant house.
Two or three of the men who were sitting there seemed very civil
and intelligent; one of them was a major of engineers, who offered
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me a profusion of information upon the new organisation of the
Italian army. While he talked, however, I was observing our hostess,
who was talking with the others; very little, I noticed, with her young
Inglese. She is altogether charming—full of frankness and freedom,
of that inimitable disinvoltura which in an Englishwoman would
be vulgar, and which in her is simply the perfection of apparent
spontaneity. But for all her spontaneity she’s as subtle as a needle-
point, and knows tremendously well what she is about. If she is not
a consummate coquette … What had she in her head when she said
that I should not have gone away?—Poor little Stanmer didn’t go
away. I left him there at midnight.
12TH.—I found him today sitting in the church of Santa Croce,
into which I wandered to escape from the heat of the sun.
In the nave it was cool and dim; he was staring at the blaze of
candles on the great altar, and thinking, I am sure, of his incompa-
rable Countess. I sat down beside him, and after a while, as if to
avoid the appearance of eagerness, he asked me how I had enjoyed
my visit to Casa Salvi, and what I thought of the padrona.
“I think half a dozen things,” I said, “but I can only tell you one
now. She’s an enchantress. You shall hear the rest when we have left
the church.”
“An enchantress?” repeated Stanmer, looking at me askance.
He is a very simple youth, but who am I to blame him?
“A charmer,” I said “a fascinatress!”
He turned away, staring at the altar candles.
“An artist—an actress,” I went on, rather brutally.
He gave me another glance.
“I think you are telling me all,” he said.
“No, no, there is more.” And we sat a long time in silence.
At last he proposed that we should go out; and we passed in the
street, where the shadows had begun to stretch themselves.
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Henry James
“I don’t know what you mean by her being an actress,” he said, as
we turned homeward.
“I suppose not. Neither should I have known, if any one had said
that to me.”
“You are thinking about the mother,” said Stanmer. “Why are
you always bringing her in?”
“My dear boy, the analogy is so great it forces itself upon me.”
He stopped and stood looking at me with his modest, perplexed
young face. I thought he was going to exclaim—“The analogy be
hanged!”—but he said after a moment—
“Well, what does it prove?”
“I can’t say it proves anything; but it suggests a great many things.”
“Be so good as to mention a few,” he said, as we walked on.
“You are not sure of her yourself,” I began.
“Never mind that—go on with your analogy.”
“That’s a part of it. You arevery much in love with her.”
“That’s a part of it too, I suppose?”
“Yes, as I have told you before. You are in love with her, and yet
you can’t make her out; that’s just where I was with regard to Ma-
dame de Salvi.”
“And she too was an enchantress, an actress, an artist, and all the
rest of it?”
“She was the most perfect coquette I ever knew, and the most
dangerous, because the most finished.”
“What you mean, then, is that her daughter is a finished coquette?”
“I rather think so.”
Stanmer walked along for some moments in silence.
“Seeing that you suppose me to be a—a great admirer of the Count-
ess,” he said at last, “I am rather surprised at the freedom with which
you speak of her.”
I confessed that I was surprised at it myself. “But it’s on account
of the interest I take in you.”
210
“I am immensely obliged to you!” said the poor boy.
“Ah, of course you don’t like it. That is, you like my interest—I
don’t see how you can help liking that; but you don’t like my free-
dom. That’s natural enough; but, my dear young friend, I want
only to help you. If a man had said to me—so many years ago—
what I am saying to you, I should certainly also, at first, have thought
him a great brute. But after a little, I should have been grateful—I
should have felt that he was helping me.”
“You seem to have been very well able to help yourself,” said
Stanmer. “You tell me you made your escape.”
“Yes, but it was at the cost of infinite perplexity—of what I may
call keen suffering. I should like to save you all that.”
“I can only repeat—it is really very kind of you.”
“Don’t repeat it too often, or I shall begin to think you don’t mean it.”
“Well,” said Stanmer, “I think this, at any rate—that you take an
extraordinary responsibility in trying to put a man out of conceit of
a woman who, as he believes, may make him very happy.”
I grasped his arm, and we stopped, going on with our talk like a
couple of Florentines.
“Do you wish to marry her?”
He looked away, without meeting my eyes. “It’s a great responsi-
bility,” he repeated.
“Before Heaven,” I said, “I would have married the mother! You
are exactly in my situation.”
“Don’t you think you rather overdo the analogy?” asked poor
Stanmer.
“A little more, a little less—it doesn’t matter. I believe you are in
my shoes. But of course if you prefer it, I will beg a thousand par-
dons and leave them to carry you where they will.”
He had been looking away, but now he slowly turned his face and
met my eyes. “You have gone too far to retreat; what is it you know
about her?”
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Henry James
“About this one—nothing. But about the other—”
“I care nothing about the other!”
“My dear fellow,” I said, “they are mother and daughter—they
are as like as two of Andrea’s Madonnas.”
“If they resemble each other, then, you were simply mistaken in
the mother.”
I took his arm and we walked on again; there seemed no adequate
reply to such a charge. “Your state of mind brings back my own so
completely,” I said presently. “You admire her—you adore her, and
yet, secretly, you mistrust her. You are enchanted with her personal
charm, her grace, her wit, her everything; and yet in your private
heart you are afraid of her.”
“Afraid of her?”
“Your mistrust keeps rising to the surface; you can’t rid yourself of
the suspicion that at the bottom of all things she is hard and cruel,
and you would be immensely relieved if some one should persuade
you that your suspicion is right.”
Stanmer made no direct reply to this; but before we reached the
hotel he said—”What did you ever know about the mother?”
“It’s a terrible story,” I answered.
He looked at me askance. “What did she do?”
“Come to my rooms this evening and I will tell you.”
He declared he would, but he never came. Exactly the way I should
have acted!
14TH.—I went again, last evening, to Casa Salvi, where I found the
same little circle, with the addition of a couple of ladies. Stanmer
was there, trying hard to talk to one of them, but making, I am sure,
a very poor business of it. The Countess—well, the Countess was
admirable. She greeted me like a friend of ten years, toward whom
familiarity should not have engendered a want of ceremony; she
made me sit near her, and she asked me a dozen questions about my
212
health and my occupations.
“I live in the past,” I said. “I go into the galleries, into the old
palaces and the churches. Today I spent an hour in Michael Angelo’s
chapel at San Loreozo.”
“Ah yes, that’s the past,” said the Countess. “Those things are very
old.”
“Twenty-seven years old,” I answered.
“Twenty-seven?Altro!”
“I mean my own past,” I said. “I went to a great many of those
places with your mother.”
“Ah, the pictures are beautiful,” murmured the Countess, glanc-
ing at Stanmer.
“Have you lately looked at any of them?” I asked. “Have you gone
to the galleries with him?”
She hesitated a moment, smiling. “It seems to me that your ques-
tion is a little impertinent. But I think you are like that.”
“A little impertinent?Never. As I say, your mother did me the
honour, more than once, to accompany me to the Uffizzi.”
“My mother must have been very kind to you.”
“So it seemed to me at the time.”
“At the time only?”
“Well, if you prefer, so it seems to me now.”
“Eh,” said the Countess, “she made sacrifices.”
“To what, cara Signora?She was perfectly free. Your lamented
father was dead—and she had not yet contracted her second mar-
riage.”
“If she was intending to marry again, it was all the more reason
she should have been careful.”
I looked at her a moment; she met my eyes gravely, over the top of
her fan. “Are you very careful?” I said.
She dropped her fan with a certain violence. “Ah, yes, you are
impertinent!”
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Henry James
“Ah no,” I said. “Remember that I am old enough to be your
father; that I knew you when you were three years old. I may surely
ask such questions. But you are right; one must do your mother
justice. She was certainly thinking of her second marriage.”
“You have not forgiven her that!” said the Countess, very gravely.
“Have you?” I asked, more lightly.
“I don’t judge my mother. That is a mortal sin. My stepfather was
very kind to me.”
“I remember him,” I said; “I saw him a great many times—your
mother already received him.”
My hostess sat with lowered eyes, saying nothing; but she pres-
ently looked up.
“She was very unhappy with my father.”
“That I can easily believe. And your stepfather—is he still living?”
“He died—before my mother.”
“Did he fight any more duels?”
“He was killed in a duel,” said the Countess, discreetly.
It seems almost monstrous, especially as I can give no reason for
it—but this announcement, instead of shocking me, caused me to
feel a strange exhilaration. Most assuredly, after all these years, I
bear the poor man no resentment. Of course I controlled my man-
ner, and simply remarked to the Countess that as his fault had been
so was his punishment. I think, however, that the feeling of which I
speak was at the bottom of my saying to her that I hoped that,
unlike her mother’s, her own brief married life had been happy.
“If it was not,” she said, “I have forgotten it now.”—I wonder if
the late Count Scarabelli was also killed in a duel, and if his adver-
sary … Is it on the books that his adversary, as well, shall perish by
the pistol?Which of those gentlemen is he, I wonder?Is it reserved
for poor little Stanmer to put a bullet into him?No; poor little
Stanmer, I trust, will do as I did. And yet, unfortunately for him,
that woman is consummately plausible. She was wonderfully nice
214
last evening; she was really irresistible. Such frankness and freedom,
and yet something so soft and womanly; such graceful gaiety, so
much of the brightness, without any of the stiffness, of good breed-
ing, and over it all something so picturesquely simple and southern.
She is a perfect Italian. But she comes honestly by it. After the talk
I have just jotted down she changed her place, and the conversation
for half an hour was general. Stanmer indeed said very little; partly,
I suppose, because he is shy of talking a foreign tongue. Was I like
that—was I so constantly silent?I suspect I was when I was per-
plexed, and Heaven knows that very often my perplexity was ex-
treme. Before I went away I had a few more words tete-a-tete with
the Countess.
“I hope you are not leaving Florence yet,” she said; “you will stay
a while longer?”
I answered that I came only for a week, and that my week was
over.
“I stay on from day to day, I am so much interested.”
“Eh, it’s the beautiful moment. I’m glad our city pleases you!”
“Florence pleases me—and I take a paternal interest to our young
friend,” I added, glancing at Stanmer. “I have become very fond of
him.”
“Bel tipo inglese,” said my hostess. “And he is very intelligent; he
has a beautiful mind.”
She stood there resting her smile and her clear, expressive eyes
upon me.
“I don’t like to praise him too much,” I rejoined, “lest I should
appear to praise myself; he reminds me so much of what I was at his
age. If your beautiful mother were to come to life for an hour she
would see the resemblance.”
She gave me a little amused stare.
“And yet you don’t look at all like him!”
“Ah, you didn’t know me when I was twenty-five. I was very hand-
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Henry James
some! And, moreover, it isn’t that, it’s the mental resemblance. I was
ingenuous, candid, trusting, like him.”
“Trusting?I remember my mother once telling me that you were
the most suspicious and jealous of men!”
“I fell into a suspicious mood, but I was, fundamentally, not in
the least addicted to thinking evil. I couldn’t easily imagine any harm
of any one.”
“And so you mean that Mr. Stanmer is in a suspicions mood?”
“Well, I mean that his situation is the same as mine.”
The Countess gave me one of her serious looks. “Come,” she said,
“what was it—this famous situation of yours?I have heard you
mention it before.”
“Your mother might have told you, since she occasionally did me
the honour to speak of me.”
“All my mother ever told me was that you were—a sad puzzle to her.”
At this, of course, I laughed out—I laugh still as I write it.
“Well, then, that was my situation—I was a sad puzzle to a very
clever woman.”
“And you mean, therefore, that I am a puzzle to poor Mr. Stanmer?”
“He is racking his brains to make you out. Remember it was you
who said he was intelligent.”
She looked round at him, and as fortune would have it, his ap-
pearance at that moment quite confirmed my assertion. He was
lounging back in his chair with an air of indolence rather too marked
for a drawing-room, and staring at the ceiling with the expression of
a man who has just been asked a conundrum. Madame Scarabelli
seemed struck with his attitude.
“Don’t you see,” I said, “he can’t read the riddle?”
“You yourself,” she answered, “said he was incapable of thinking
evil. I should be sorry to have him think any evil of me.”
And she looked straight at me—seriously, appealingly—with her
beautiful candid brow.
216
I inclined myself, smiling, in a manner which might have meant—
”How could that be possible?”
“I have a great esteem for him,” she went on; “I want him to think
well of me. If I am a puzzle to him, do me a little service. Explain
me to him.”
“Explain you, dear lady?”
“You are older and wiser than he. Make him understand me.”
She looked deep into my eyes for a moment, and then she turned
away.
26TH.—I have written nothing for a good many days, but mean-
while I have been half a dozen times to Casa Salvi. I have seen a
good deal also of my young friend—had a good many walks and
talks with him. I have proposed to him to come with me to Venice
for a fortnight, but he won’t listen to the idea of leaving Florence.
He is very happy in spite of his doubts, and I confess that in the
perception of his happiness I have lived over again my own. This is
so much the case that when, the other day, he at last made up his
mind to ask me to tell him the wrong that Madame de Salvi had
done me, I rather checked his curiosity. I told him that if he was
bent upon knowing I would satisfy him, but that it seemed a pity,
just now, to indulge in painful imagery.
“But I thought you wanted so much to put me out of conceit of
our friend.”
“I admit I am inconsistent, but there are various reasons for it. In
the first place—it’s obvious—I am open to the charge of playing a
double game. I profess an admiration for the Countess Scarabelli, for
I accept her hospitality, and at the same time I attempt to poison your
mind; isn’t that the proper expression?I can’t exactly make up my
mind to that, though my admiration for the Countess and my desire
to prevent you from taking a foolish step are equally sincere. And
then, in the second place, you seem to me, on the whole, so happy!
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Henry James
One hesitates to destroy an illusion, no matter how pernicious, that is
so delightful while it lasts. These are the rare moments of life. To be
young and ardent, in the midst of an Italian spring, and to believe in
the moral perfection of a beautiful woman—what an admirable situ-
ation! Float with the current; I’ll stand on the brink and watch you.”
“Your real reason is that you feel you have no case against the poor
lady,” said Stanmer. “You admire her as much as I do.”
“I just admitted that I admired her. I never said she was a vulgar
flirt; her mother was an absolutely scientific one. Heaven knows I
admired that! It’s a nice point, however, how much one is hound in
honour not to warn a young friend against a dangerous woman
because one also has relations of civility with the lady.”
“In such a case,” said Stanmer, “I would break off my relations.”
I looked at him, and I think I laughed.
“Are you jealous of me, by chance?”
He shook his head emphatically.
“Not in the least; I like to see you there, because your conduct
contradicts your words.”
“I have always said that the Countess is fascinating.”
“Otherwise,” said Stanmer, “in the case you speak of I would give
the lady notice.”
“Give her notice?”
“Mention to her that you regard her with suspicion, and that you
propose to do your best to rescue a simple-minded youth from her
wiles. That would be more loyal.” And he began to laugh again.
It is not the first time he has laughed at me; but I have never
minded it, because I have always understood it.
“Is that what you recommend me to say to the Countess?” I asked.
“Recommend you!” he exclaimed, laughing again; “I recommend
nothing. I may be the victim to be rescued, but I am at least not a
partner to the conspiracy. Besides,” he added in a moment, “the
Countess knows your state of mind.”
218
“Has she told you so?”
Stanmer hesitated.
“She has begged me to listen to everything you may say against
her. She declares that she has a good conscience.”
“Ah,” said I, “she’s an accomplished woman!”
And it is indeed very clever of her to take that tone. Stanmer
afterwards assured me explicitly that he has never given her a hint of
the liberties I have taken in conversation with—what shall I call
it?—with her moral nature; she has guessed them for herself. She
must hate me intensely, and yet her manner has always been so
charming to me! She is truly an accomplished woman!
MAY 4TH.—I have stayed away from Casa Salvi for a week, but I
have lingered on in Florence, under a mixture of impulses. I have
had it on my conscience not to go near the Countess again—and
yet from the moment she is aware of the way I feel about her, it is
open war. There need be no scruples on either side. She is as free to
use every possible art to entangle poor Stanmer more closely as I am
to clip her fine-spun meshes. Under the circumstances, however, we
naturally shouldn’t meet very cordially. But as regards her meshes,
why, after all, should I clip them?It would really be very interesting
to see Stanmer swallowed up. I should like to see how he would
agree with her after she had devoured him—(to what vulgar imag-
ery, by the way, does curiosity reduce a man!) Let him finish the
story in his own way, as I finished it in mine. It is the same story;
but why, a quarter of a century later, should it have the same
denoument?Let him make his own denoument.
5TH.—Hang it, however, I don’t want the poor boy to be miserable.
6TH.—Ah, but did my denoument then prove such a happy one?
TheDiary of a Man of Fifty
219
Henry James
7TH.—He came to my room late last night; he was much excited.
“What was it she did to you?” he asked.
I answered him first with another question. “Have you quarrelled
with the Countess?”
But he only repeated his own. “What was it she did to you?”
“Sit down and I’ll tell you.” And he sat there beside she candle,
staring at me. “There was a man always there—Count Camerino.”
“The man she married?”
“The man she married. I was very much in love with her, and yet
I didn’t trust her. I was sure that she lied; I believed that she could
be cruel. Nevertheless, at moments, she had a charm which made it
pure pedantry to be conscious of her faults; and while these mo-
ments lasted I would have done anything for her. Unfortunately
they didn’t last long. But you know what I mean; am I not describ-
ing the Scarabelli?”
“The Countess Scarabelli never lied!” cried Stanmer.
“That’s just what I would have said to any one who should have
made the insinutation! But I suppose you are not asking me the
question you put to me just now from dispassionate curiosity.”
“A man may want to know!” said the innocent fellow.
I couldn’t help laughing out. “ This, at any rate, is my story.
Camerino was always there; he was a sort of fixture in the house. If
I had moments of dislike for the divine Bianca, I had no moments
of liking for him. And yet he was a very agreeable fellow, very civil,
very intelligent, not in the least disposed to make a quarrel with me.
The trouble, of course, was simply that I was jealous of him. I don’t
know, however, on what ground I could have quarrelled with him,
for I had no definite rights. I can’t say what I expected—I can’t say
what, as the matter stood, I was prepared to do. With my name and
my prospects, I might perfectly have offered her my hand. I am not
sure that she would have accepted it—I am by no means clear that
she wanted that. But she wanted, wanted keenly, to attach me to
220
her; she wanted to have me about. I should have been capable of
giving up everything—England, my career, my family—simply to
devote myself to her, to live near her and see her every day.”
“Why didn’t you do it, then?” asked Stanmer.
“Why don’t you?”
“To be a proper rejoinder to my question,” he said, rather neatly,
“yours should be asked twenty-five years hence.”
“It remains perfectly true that at a given moment I was capable of
doing as I say. That was what she wanted—a rich, susceptible, credu-
lous, convenient young Englishman established near her en perma-
nence. And yet,” I added, “I must do her complete justice. I hon-
estly believe she was fond of me.” At this Stanmer got up and walked
to the window; he stood looking out a moment, and then he turned
round. “You know she was older than I,” I went on. “Madame
Scarabelli is older than you. One day in the garden, her mother
asked me in an angry tone why I disliked Camerino; for I had been
at no pains to conceal my feeling about him, and something had
just happened to bring it out. ‘I dislike him,’ I said, ‘because you
like him so much.’ ‘I assure you I don’t like him,’ she answered. ‘He
has all the appearance of being your lover,’ I retorted. It was a brutal
speech, certainly, but any other man in my place would have made
it. She took it very strangely; she turned pale, but she was not indig-
nant. ‘How can he be my lover after what he has done?’ she asked.
‘What has he done?’ She hesitated a good while, then she said: ‘He
killed my husband.’ ‘Good heavens!’ I cried, ‘and you receive him!’
Do you know what she said?She said, ‘Che voule?’”
“Is that all?” asked Stanmer.
“No; she went on to say that Camerino had killed Count Salvi in
a duel, and she admitted that her husband’s jealousy had been the
occasion of it. The Count, it appeared, was a monster of jealousy—
he had led her a dreadful life. He himself, meanwhile, had been
anything but irreproachable; he had done a mortal injury to a man
TheDiary of a Man of Fifty
221
Henry James
of whom he pretended to be a friend, and this affair had become
notorious. The gentleman in question had demanded satisfaction
for his outraged honour; but for some reason or other (the Count-
ess, to do her justice, did not tell me that her husband was a cow-
ard), he had not as yet obtained it. The duel with Camerino had
come on first; in an access of jealous fury the Count had struck
Camerino in the face; and this outrage, I know not how justly, was
deemed expiable before the other. By an extraordinary arrangement
(the Italians have certainly no sense of fair play) the other man was
allowed to be Camerino’s second. The duel was fought with swords,
and the Count received a wound of which, though at first it was not
expected to be fatal, he died on the following day. The matter was
hushed up as much as possible for the sake of the Countess’s good
name, and so successfully that it was presently observed that, among
the public, the other gentleman had the credit of having put his blade
through M. de Salvi. This gentleman took a fancy not to contradict
the impression, and it was allowed to subsist. So long as he consented,
it was of course in Camerino’s interest not to contradict it, as it left
him much more free to keep up his intimacy with the Countess.”
Stanmer had listened to all this with extreme attention. “Why
didn’t shecontradict it?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I am bound to believe it was for the
same reason. I was horrified, at any rate, by the whole story. I was
extremely shocked at the Countess’s want of dignity in continuing
to see the man by whose hand her husband had fallen.”
“The husband had been a great brute, and it was not known,”
said Stanmer.
“Its not being known made no difference. And as for Salvi having
been a brute, that is but a way of saying that his wife, and the man
whom his wife subsequently married, didn’t like him.”
Stanmer hooked extremely meditative; his eyes were fixed on mine.
“Yes, that marriage is hard to get over. It was not becoming.”
222
“Ah,” said I, “what a long breath I drew when I heard of it! I
remember the place and the hour. It was at a hill-station in India,
seven years after I had left Florence. The post brought me some
English papers, and in one of them was a letter from Italy, with a lot
of so-called ‘fashionable intelligence.’ There, among various scan-
dals in high life, and other delectable items, I read that the Count-
ess Bianca Salvi, famous for some years as the presiding genius of
the most agreeable seen in Florence, was about to bestow her hand
upon Count Camerino, a distinguished Bolognese. Ah, my dear
boy, it was a tremendous escape! I had been ready to marry the
woman who was capable of that! But my instinct had warned me,
and I had trusted my instinct.”
“‘Instinct’s everything,’ as Falstaff says!” And Stanmer began to
laugh. “Did you tell Madame de Salvi that your instinct was against
her?”
“No; I told her that she frightened me, shocked me, horrified
me.”
“That’s about the same thing. And what did she say?”
“She asked me what I would have?I called her friendship with
Camerino a scandal, and she answered that her husband had been a
brute. Besides, no one knew it; therefore it was no scandal. Just your
argument! I retorted that this was odious reasoning, and that she
had no moral sense. We had a passionate argument, and I declared
I would never see her again. In the heat of my displeasure I left
Florence, and I kept my vow. I never saw her again.”
“You couldn’t have been much in love with her,” said Stanmer.
“I was not—three months after.”
“If you had been you would have come back—three days after.”
“So doubtless it seems to you. All I can say is that it was the great
effort of my life. Being a military man, I have had on various occa-
sions to face time enemy. But it was not then I needed my resolu-
tion; it was when I left Florence in a post-chaise.”
TheDiary of a Man of Fifty
223
Henry James
Stanmer turned about the room two or three times, and then he
said: “I don’t understand! I don’t understand why she should have
told you that Camerino had killed her husband. It could only dam-
age her.”
“She was afraid it would damage her more that I should think he
was her lover. She wished to say the thing that would most effectu-
ally persuade me that he was not her lover—that he could never be.
And then she wished to get the credit of being very frank.”
“Good heavens, how you must have analysed her!” cried my com-
panion, staring.
“There is nothing so analytic as disillusionment. But there it is.
She married Camerino.”
“Yes, I don’t lime that,” said Stanmer. He was silent a while, and
then he added—”Perhaps she wouldn’t have done so if you had
remained.”
He has a little innocent way! “Very likely she would have dis-
pensed with the ceremony,” I answered, drily.
“Upon my word,” he said, “you haveanalysed her!”
“You ought to he grateful to me. I have done for you what you
seem unable to do for yourself.”
“I don’t see any Camerino in my case,” he said.
“Perhaps among those gentlemen I can find one for you.”
“Thank you,” he cried; “I’ll take care of that myself!” And he
went away—satisfied, I hope.
10TH.—He’s an obstinate little wretch; it irritates me to see him
sticking to it. Perhaps he is looking for his Camerino. I shall leave
him, at any rate, to his fate; it is growing insupportably hot.
11TH.—I went this evening to bid farewell to the Scarabelli. There
was no one there; she was alone in her great dusky drawing-room,
which was lighted only by a couple of candles, with the immense
224
windows open over the garden. She was dressed in white; she was
deucedly pretty. She asked me, of course, why I had been so long
without coming.
“I think you say that only for form,” I answered. “I imagine you
know.”
“Che! what have I done?”
“Nothing at all. You are too wise for that.”
She looked at me a while. “I think you are a little crazy.”
“Ah no, I am only too sane. I have too much reason rather than
too little.”
“You have, at any rate, what we call a fixed idea.”
“There is no harm in that so long as it’s a good one.”
“But yours is abominable!” she exclaimed, with a laugh.
“Of course you can’t like me or my ideas. All things considered,
you have treated me with wonderful kindness, and I thank you and
kiss your hands. I leave Florence tomorrow.”
“I won’t say I’m sorry!” she said, laughing again. “But I am very
glad to have seen you. I always wondered about you. You are a curi-
osity.”
“Yes, you must find me so. A man who can resist your charms!
The fact is, I can’t. This evening you are enchanting; and it is the
first time I have been alone with you.”
She gave no heed to this; she turned away. But in a moment she
came back, and stood looking at me, and her beautiful solemn eyes
seemed to shine in the dimness of the room.
“How could you treat my mother so?” she asked.
“Treat her so?”
“How could you desert the most charming woman in the world?”
“It was not a case of desertion; and if it had been it seems to me
she was consoled.”
At this moment there was the sound of a step in the ante-cham-
ber, and I saw that the Countess perceived it to be Stanmer’s.
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225
Henry James
“That wouldn’t have happened,” she murmured. “My poor mother
needed a protector.”
Stanmer came in, interrupting our talk, and looking at me, I thought,
with a little air of bravado. He must think me indeed a tiresome,
meddlesome bore; and upon my word, turning it all over, I wonder at
his docility. After all, he’s five-and-twenty—and yet I must add, it does
irritate me—the way he sticks! He was followed in a moment by two
or three of the regular Italians, and I made my visit short.
“Good-bye, Countess,” I said; and she gave me her hand in si-
lence. “Do you need a protector?” I added, softly.
She looked at me from head to foot, and then, almost angrily—
”Yes, Signore.”
But, to deprecate her anger, I kept her hand an instant, and then
bent my venerable head and kissed it. I think I appeased her.
BOLOGNA, 14TH.—I left Florence on the 11th, and have been
here these three days. Delightful old Italian town—but it lacks the
charm of my Florentine secret.
I wrote that last entry five days ago, late at night, after coming
back from Casa Salsi. I afterwards fell asleep in my chair; the night
was half over when I woke up. Instead of going to bed, I stood a
long time at the window, looking out at the river. It was a warm,
still night, and the first faint streaks of sunrise were in the sky. Pres-
ently I heard a slow footstep beneath my window, and looking down,
made out by the aid of a street lamp that Stanmer was but just
coming home. I called to him to come to my rooms, and, after an
interval, he made his appearance.
“I want to bid you good-bye,” I said; “I shall depart in the morn-
ing. Don’t go to the trouble of saying you are sorry. Of course you
are not; I must have bullied you immensely.”
He made no attempt to say he was sorry, but he said he was very
glad to have made my acquaintance.
226
“Your conversation,” he said, with his little innocent air, “has been
very suggestive.”
“Have you found Camerino?” I asked, smiling.
“I have given up the search.”
“Well,” I said, “some day when you find that you have made a
great mistake, remember I told you so.”
He looked for a minute as if he were trying to anticipate that day
by the exercise of his reason.
“Has it ever occurred to you that you may have made a great mis-
take?”
“Oh yes; everything occurs to one sooner or later.”
That’s what I said to him; but I didn’t say that the question, pointed
by his candid young countenance, had, for the moment, a greater
force than it had ever had before.
And then he asked me whether, as things had turned out, I myself
had been so especially happy.
PARIS, DECEMBER 17TH.—A note from young Stanmer, whom I
saw in Florence—a remarkable little note, dated Rome, and worth
transcribing.
“My dear General—I have it at heart to tell you that I was married
a week ago to the Countess Salvi-Scarabelli. You talked me into a
great muddle; but a month after that it was all very clear. Things
that involve a risk are like the Christian faith; they must be seen
from the inside.—Yours ever, E. S.
“P. S.—A fig for analogies unless you can find an analogy for my
happiness!”
His happiness makes him very clever. I hope it will last—I mean
his cleverness, not his happiness.
TheDiary of a Man of Fifty
227
Henry James
LONDON, APRIL 19TH, 1877.—Last night, at Lady H—’s, I met
Edmund Stanmer, who married Bianca Salvi’s daughter. I heard the
other day that they had come to England. A handsome young fel-
low, with a fresh contented face. He reminded me of Florence, which
I didn’t pretend to forget; but it was rather awkward, for I remem-
ber I used to disparage that woman to him. I had a complete theory
about her. But he didn’t seem at all stiff; on the contrary, he ap-
peared to enjoy our encounter. I asked him if his wife were there. I
had to do that.
“Oh yes, she’s in one of the other rooms. Come and make her
acquaintance; I want you to know her.”
“You forget that I do know her.”
“Oh no, you don’t; you never did.” And he gave a little significant
laugh.
I didn’t feel like facing the ci-devant Scarabelli at that moment; so
I said that I was leaving the house, but that I would do myself the
honour of calling upon his wife. We talked for a minute of some-
thing else, and then, suddenly breaking off and looking at me, he
laid his hand on my arm. I must do him the justice to say that he
looks felicitous.
“Depend upon it you were wrong!” he said.
“My dear young friend,” I answered, “imagine the alacrity with
which I concede it.”
Something else again was spoken of, but in an instant he repeated
his movement.
“Depend upon it you were wrong.”
“I am sure the Countess has forgiven me,” I said, “and in that case
you ought to bear no grudge. As I have had the honour to say, I will
call upon her immediately.”
“I was not alluding to my wife,” he answered. “I was thinking of
your own story.”
“My own story?”
228
“So many years ago. Was it not rather a mistake?”
I looked at him a moment; he’s positively rosy.
“That’s not a question to solve in a London crush.”
And I turned away.
22D.—I haven’t yet called on the ci-devant; I am afraid of finding
her at home. And that boy’s words have been thrumming in my
ears—“Depend upon it you were wrong. Wasn’t it rather a mis-
take?” WasI wrong—wasit a mistake?Was I too cautions—too
suspicious—too logical?Was it really a protector she needed—a man
who might have helped her?Would it have been for his benefit to
believe in her, and was her fault only that I had forsaken her?Was
the poor woman very unhappy?God forgive me, how the questions
come crowding in! If I marred her happiness, I certainly didn’t make
my own. And I might have made it—eh?That’s a charming discov-
ery for a man of my age!
TheDiary of a Man of Fifty
229
Henry James
Sir Dominick
Ferrand
by
Henry James
“THERE ARE SEVERAL OBJECTIONS to it, but I’ll take it if you’ll alter it,”
Mr. Locket’s rather curt note had said; and there was no waste of
words in the postscript in which he had added: “If you’ll come in and
see me, I’ll show you what I mean.” This communication had reached
Jersey Villas by the first post, and Peter Baron had scarcely swallowed
his leathery muffin before he got into motion to obey the editorial
behest. He knew that such precipitation looked eager, and he had no
desire to look eager—it was not in his interest; but how could he
maintain a godlike calm, principled though he was in favour of it, the
first time one of the great magazines had accepted, even with a cruel
reservation, a specimen of his ardent young genius?
It was not till, like a child with a sea-shell at his ear, he began to be
aware of the great roar of the “underground,” that, in his third-class
carriage, the cruelty of the reservation penetrated, with the taste of
acrid smoke, to his inner sense. It was really degrading to be eager in
the face of having to “alter.” Peter Baron tried to figure to himself at
230
that moment that he was not flying to betray the extremity of his
need, but hurrying to fight for some of those passages of superior
boldness which were exactly what the conductor of the “Promiscu-
ous Review” would be sure to be down upon. He made believe—as
if to the greasy fellow-passenger opposite—that he felt indignant;
but he saw that to the small round eye of this still more downtrod-
den brother he represented selfish success. He would have liked to
linger in the conception that he had been “approached” by the Pro-
miscuous; but whatever might be thought in the office of that peri-
odical of some of his flights of fancy, there was no want of vividness
in his occasional suspicion that he passed there for a familiar bore.
The only thing that was clearly flattering was the fact that the Pro-
miscuous rarely published fiction. He should therefore be associ-
ated with a deviation from a solemn habit, and that would more
than make up to him for a phrase in one of Mr. Locket’s inexorable
earlier notes, a phrase which still rankled, about his showing no
symptom of the faculty really creative. “You don’t seem able to keep
a character together,” this pitiless monitor had somewhere else re-
marked. Peter Baron, as he sat in his corner while the train stopped,
considered, in the befogged gaslight, the bookstall standard of lit-
erature and asked himself whose character had fallen to pieces now.
Tormenting indeed had always seemed to him such a fate as to have
the creative head without the creative hand.
It should be mentioned, however, that before he started on his
mission to Mr. Locket his attention had been briefly engaged by an
incident occurring at Jersey Villas. On leaving the house (he lived at
No. 3, the door of which stood open to a small front garden), he
encountered the lady who, a week before, had taken possession of
the rooms on the ground floor, the “parlours” of Mrs. Bundy’s ter-
minology. He had heard her, and from his window, two or three
times, had even seen her pass in and out, and this observation had
created in his mind a vague prejudice in her favour. Such a preju-
Sir Dominick Ferrand
231
Henry James
dice, it was true, had been subjected to a violent test; it had been
fairly apparent that she had a light step, but it was still less to be
overlooked that she had a cottage piano. She had furthermore a
little boy and a very sweet voice, of which Peter Baron had caught
the accent, not from her singing (for she only played), but from her
gay admonitions to her child, whom she occasionally allowed to
amuse himself—under restrictions very publicly enforced—in the
tiny black patch which, as a forecourt to each house, was held, in
the humble row, to be a feature. Jersey Villas stood in pairs, semi-
detached, and Mrs. Ryves—such was the name under which the
new lodger presented herself—had been admitted to the house as
confessedly musical. Mrs. Bundy, the earnest proprietress of No. 3,
who considered her “parlours” (they were a dozen feet square), even
more attractive, if possible, than the second floor with which Baron
had had to content himself—Mrs. Bundy, who reserved the draw-
ing-room for a casual dressmaking business, had threshed out the
subject of the new lodger in advance with our young man, re-
minding him that her affection for his own person was a proof
that, other things being equal, she positively preferred tenants who
were clever.
This was the case with Mrs. Ryves; she had satisfied Mrs. Bundy
that she was not a simple strummer. Mrs. Bundy admitted to Peter
Baron that, for herself, she had a weakness for a pretty tune, and
Peter could honestly reply that his ear was equally sensitive. Every-
thing would depend on the “touch” of their inmate. Mrs. Ryves’s
piano would blight his existence if her hand should prove heavy or
her selections vulgar; but if she played agreeable things and played
them in an agreeable way she would render him rather a service
while he smoked the pipe of “form.” Mrs. Bundy, who wanted to
let her rooms, guaranteed on the part of the stranger a first-class
talent, and Mrs. Ryves, who evidently knew thoroughly what she
was about, had not falsified this somewhat rash prediction. She never
232
played in the morning, which was Baron’s working-time, and he
found himself listening with pleasure at other hours to her discreet
and melancholy strains. He really knew little about music, and the
only criticism he would have made of Mrs. Ryves’s conception of it
was that she seemed devoted to the dismal. It was not, however, that
these strains were not pleasant to him; they floated up, on the con-
trary, as a sort of conscious response to some of his broodings and
doubts. Harmony, therefore, would have reigned supreme had it
not been for the singularly bad taste of No. 4. Mrs. Ryves’s piano
was on the free side of the house and was regarded by Mrs. Bundy
as open to no objection but that of their own gentleman, who was
so reasonable. As much, however, could not be said of the gentle-
man of No. 4, who had not even Mr. Baron’s excuse of being
“littery”(he kept a bull-terrier and had five hats—the street could
count them), and whom, if you had listened to Mrs. Bundy, you
would have supposed to be divided from the obnoxious instrument
by walls and corridors, obstacles and intervals, of massive structure
and fabulous extent. This gentleman had taken up an attitude which
had now passed into the phase of correspondence and compromise;
but it was the opinion of the immediate neighbourhood that he had
not a leg to stand upon, and on whatever subject the sentiment of
Jersey Villas might have been vague, it was not so on the rights and
the wrongs of landladies.
Mrs. Ryves’s little boy was in the garden as Peter Baron issued
from the house, and his mother appeared to have come out for a
moment, bareheaded, to see that he was doing no harm. She was
discussing with him the responsibility that he might incur by pass-
ing a piece of string round one of the iron palings and pretending
he was in command of a “geegee”; but it happened that at the sight
of the other lodger the child was seized with a finer perception of
the drivable. He rushed at Baron with a flourish of the bridle, shout-
ing, “Ou geegee!” in a manner productive of some refined embar-
Sir Dominick Ferrand
233
Henry James
rassment to his mother. Baron met his advance by mounting him
on a shoulder and feigning to prance an instant, so that by the time
this performance was over—it took but a few seconds—the young
man felt introduced to Mrs. Ryves. Her smile struck him as charm-
ing, and such an impression shortens many steps. She said, “Oh, thank
you—you mustn’t let him worry you”; and then as, having put down
the child and raised his hat, he was turning away, she added: “It’s very
good of you not to complain of my piano.”
“I particularly enjoy it—you play beautifully,” said Peter Baron.
“I have to play, you see—it’s all I can do. But the people next door
don’t like it, though my room, you know, is not against their wall.
Therefore I thank you for letting me tell them that you, in the house,
don’t find me a nuisance.”
She looked gentle and bright as she spoke, and as the young man’s
eyes rested on her the tolerance for which she expressed herself in-
debted seemed to him the least indulgence she might count upon.
But he only laughed and said “Oh, no, you’re not a nuisance!” and
felt more and more introduced.
The little boy, who was handsome, hereupon clamoured for an-
other ride, and she took him up herself, to moderate his transports.
She stood a moment with the child in her arms, and he put his
fingers exuberantly into her hair, so that while she smiled at Baron
she slowly, permittingly shook her head to get rid of them.
“If they really make a fuss I’m afraid I shall have to go,” she went on.
“Oh, don’t go!” Baron broke out, with a sudden expressiveness
which made his voice, as it fell upon his ear, strike him as the voice
of another. She gave a vague exclamation and, nodding slightly but
not unsociably, passed back into the house. She had made an im-
pression which remained till the other party to the conversation
reached the railway-station, when it was superseded by the thought
of his prospective discussion with Mr. Locket. This was a proof of
the intensity of that interest.
234
The aftertaste of the later conference was also intense for Peter
Baron, who quitted his editor with his manuscript under his arm.
He had had the question out with Mr. Locket, and he was in a
flutter which ought to have been a sense of triumph and which
indeed at first he succeeded in regarding in this light. Mr. Locket
had had to admit that there was an idea in his story, and that was a
tribute which Baron was in a position to make the most of. But
there was also a scene which scandalised the editorial conscience
and which the young man had promised to rewrite. The idea that
Mr. Locket had been so good as to disengage depended for clearness
mainly on this scene; so it was easy to see his objection was perverse.
This inference was probably a part of the joy in which Peter Baron
walked as he carried home a contribution it pleased him to classify
as accepted. He walked to work off his excitement and to think in
what manner he should reconstruct. He went some distance with-
out settling that point, and then, as it began to worry him, he looked
vaguely into shop-windows for solutions and hints. Mr. Locket lived
in the depths of Chelsea, in a little panelled, amiable house, and
Baron took his way homeward along the King’s Road. There was a
new amusement for him, a fresher bustle, in a London walk in the
morning; these were hours that he habitually spent at his table, in
the awkward attitude engendered by the poor piece of furniture,
one of the rickety features of Mrs. Bundy’s second floor, which had
to serve as his altar of literary sacrifice. If by exception he went out
when the day was young he noticed that life seemed younger with
it; there were livelier industries to profit by and shop-girls, often
rosy, to look at; a different air was in the streets and a chaff of traffic
for the observer of manners to catch. Above all, it was the time
when poor Baron made his purchases, which were wholly of the
wandering mind; his extravagances, for some mysterious reason, were
all matutinal, and he had a foreknowledge that if ever he should
ruin himself it would be well before noon. He felt lavish this morn-
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Henry James
ing, on the strength of what the Promiscuous would do for him; he
had lost sight for the moment of what he should have to do for the
Promiscuous. Before the old bookshops and printshops, the crowded
panes of the curiosity-mongers and the desirable exhibitions of ma-
hogany “done up,” he used, by an innocent process, to commit luxu-
rious follies. He refurnished Mrs. Bundy with a freedom that cost
her nothing, and lost himself in pictures of a transfigured second
floor.
On this particular occasion the King’s Road proved almost
unprecedentedly expensive, and indeed this occasion differed from
most others in containing the germ of real danger. For once in a
way he had a bad conscience—he felt himself tempted to pick his
own pocket. He never saw a commodious writing-table, with el-
bow-room and drawers and a fair expanse of leather stamped neatly
at the edge with gilt, without being freshly reminded of Mrs. Bundy’s
dilapidations. There were several such tables in the King’s Road—
they seemed indeed particularly numerous today. Peter Baron glanced
at them all through the fronts of the shops, but there was one that
detained him in supreme contemplation. There was a fine assur-
ance about it which seemed a guarantee of masterpieces; but when
at last he went in and, just to help himself on his way, asked the
impossible price, the sum mentioned by the voluble vendor mocked
at him even more than he had feared. It was far too expensive, as he
hinted, and he was on the point of completing his comedy by a
pensive retreat when the shopman bespoke his attention for an-
other article of the same general character, which he described as
remarkably cheap for what it was. It was an old piece, from a sale in
the country, and it had been in stock some time; but it had got
pushed out of sight in one of the upper rooms—they contained
such a wilderness of treasures—and happened to have but just come
to light. Peter suffered himself to be conducted into an intermi-
nable dusky rear, where he presently found himself bending over
236
one of those square substantial desks of old mahogany, raised, with
the aid of front legs, on a sort of retreating pedestal which is fitted
with small drawers, contracted conveniences known immemorially
to the knowing as davenports. This specimen had visibly seen ser-
vice, but it had an old-time solidity and to Peter Baron it unexpect-
edly appealed.
He would have said in advance that such an article was exactly
what he didn’t want, but as the shopman pushed up a chair for him
and he sat down with his elbows on the gentle slope of the large,
firm lid, he felt that such a basis for literature would be half the
battle. He raised the lid and looked lovingly into the deep interior;
he sat ominously silent while his companion dropped the striking
words: “Now that’s an article I personally covet!” Then when the
man mentioned the ridiculous price (they were literally giving it
away), he reflected on the economy of having a literary altar on
which one could really kindle a fire. A davenport was a compro-
mise, but what was all life but a compromise?He could beat down
the dealer, and at Mrs. Bundy’s he had to write on an insincere card-
table. After he had sat for a minute with his nose in the friendly
desk he had a queer impression that it might tell him a secret or
two—one of the secrets of form, one of the sacrificial mysteries—
though no doubt its career had been literary only in the sense of its
helping some old lady to write invitations to dull dinners. There
was a strange, faint odour in the receptacle, as if fragrant, hallowed
things had once been put away there. When he took his head out of
it he said to the shopman: “I don’t mind meeting you halfway.” He
had been told by knowing people that that was the right thing. He
felt rather vulgar, but the davenport arrived that evening at Jersey
Villas.
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Henry James
CHAPTER II
“I DARESAY it will be all right; he seems quiet now,” said the poor
lady of the “parlours” a few days later, in reference to their litigious
neighbour and the precarious piano. The two lodgers had grown
regularly acquainted, and the piano had had much to do with it.
Just as this instrument served, with the gentleman at No. 4, as a
theme for discussion, so between Peter Baron and the lady of the
parlours it had become a basis of peculiar agreement, a topic, at any
rate, of conversation frequently renewed. Mrs. Ryves was so prepos-
sessing that Peter was sure that even if they had not had the piano
he would have found something else to thresh out with her. Fortu-
nately however they did have it, and he, at least, made the most of
it, knowing more now about his new friend, who when, widowed
and fatigued, she held her beautiful child in her arms, looked dimly
like a modern Madonna. Mrs. Bundy, as a letter of furnished lodg-
ings, was characterised in general by a familiar domestic severity in
respect to picturesque young women, but she had the highest con-
fidence in Mrs. Ryves. She was luminous about her being a lady,
and a lady who could bring Mrs. Bundy back to a gratified recogni-
tion of one of those manifestations of mind for which she had an
independent esteem. She was professional, but Jersey Villas could
be proud of a profession that didn’t happen to be the wrong one—
they had seen something of that. Mrs. Ryves had a hundred a year
(Baron wondered how Mrs. Bundy knew this; he thought it un-
likely Mrs. Ryves had told her), and for the rest she depended on
238
her lovely music. Baron judged that her music, even though lovely,
was a frail dependence; it would hardly help to fill a concert-room,
and he asked himself at first whether she played country-dances at
children’s parties or gave lessons to young ladies who studied above
their station.
Very soon, indeed, he was sufficiently enlightened; it all went fast,
for the little boy had been almost as great a help as the piano. Sidney
haunted the doorstep of No. 3 he was eminently sociable, and had
established independent relations with Peter, a frequent feature of
which was an adventurous visit, upstairs, to picture books criticised
for not being all geegees and walking sticks happily more conform-
able. The young man’s window, too, looked out on their acquain-
tance; through a starched muslin curtain it kept his neighbour be-
fore him, made him almost more aware of her comings and goings
than he felt he had a right to be. He was capable of a shyness of
curiosity about her and of dumb little delicacies of consideration.
She did give a few lessons; they were essentially local, and he ended
by knowing more or less what she went out for and what she came
in from. She had almost no visitors, only a decent old lady or two,
and, every day, poor dingy Miss Teagle, who was also ancient and
who came humbly enough to governess the infant of the parlours.
Peter Baron’s window had always, to his sense, looked out on a good
deal of life, and one of the things it had most shown him was that
there is nobody so bereft of joy as not to be able to command for
twopence the services of somebody less joyous. Mrs. Ryves was a
struggler (Baron scarcely liked to think of it), but she occupied a
pinnacle for Miss Teagle, who had lived on—and from a noble nurs-
ery—into a period of diplomas and humiliation.
Mrs. Ryves sometimes went out, like Baron himself, with manu-
scripts under her arm, and, still more like Baron, she almost always
came back with them. Her vain approaches were to the music-sell-
ers; she tried to compose—to produce songs that would make a hit.
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Henry James
A successful song was an income, she confided to Peter one of the
first times he took Sidney, blase and drowsy, back to his mother. It
was not on one of these occasions, but once when he had come in
on no better pretext than that of simply wanting to (she had after all
virtually invited him), that she mentioned how only one song in a
thousand was successful and that the terrible difficulty was in get-
ting the right words. This rightness was just a vulgar “fluke”—there
were lots of words really clever that were of no use at all. Peter said,
laughing, that he supposed any words he should try to produce
would be sure to be too clever; yet only three weeks after his first
encounter with Mrs. Ryves he sat at his delightful davenport (well
aware that he had duties more pressing), trying to string together
rhymes idiotic enough to make his neighbour’s fortune. He was
satisfied of the fineness of her musical gift—it had the touching
note. The touching note was in her person as well.
The davenport was delightful, after six months of its tottering
predecessor, and such a re-enforcement to the young man’s style
was not impaired by his sense of something lawless in the way it had
been gained. He had made the purchase in anticipation of the money
he expected from Mr. Locket, but Mr. Locket’s liberality was to
depend on the ingenuity of his contributor, who now found him-
self confronted with the consequence of a frivolous optimism. The
fruit of his labour presented, as he stared at it with his elbows on his
desk, an aspect uncompromising and incorruptible. It seemed to
look up at him reproachfully and to say, with its essential finish:
“How could you promise anything so base; how could you pass
your word to mutilate and dishonour me?” The alterations demanded
by Mr. Locket were impossible; the concessions to the platitude of
his conception of the public mind were degrading. The public
mind!—as if the public had a mind, or any principle of perception
more discoverable than the stare of huddled sheep! Peter Baron felt
that it concerned him to determine if he were only not clever enough
240
or if he were simply not abject enough to rewrite his story. He might
in truth have had less pride if he had had more skill, and more
discretion if he had had more practice. Humility, in the profession
of letters, was half of practice, and resignation was half of success.
Poor Peter actually flushed with pain as he recognised that this was
not success, the production of gelid prose which his editor could do
nothing with on the one side and he himself could do nothing with
on the other. The truth about his luckless tale was now the more
bitter from his having managed, for some days, to taste it as sweet.
As he sat there, baffled and sombre, biting his pen and wondering
what was meant by the “rewards” of literature, he generally ended
by tossing away the composition deflowered by Mr. Locket and
trying his hand at the sort of twaddle that Mrs. Ryves might be able
to set to music. Success in these experiments wouldn’t be a reward
of literature, but it might very well become a labour of love. The
experiments would be pleasant enough for him if they were pleas-
ant for his inscrutable neighbour. That was the way he thought of
her now, for he had learned enough about her, little by little, to
guess how much there was still to learn. To spend his mornings over
cheap rhymes for her was certainly to shirk the immediate question;
but there were hours when he judged this question to be altogether
too arduous, reflecting that he might quite as well perish by the
sword as by famine. Besides, he did meet it obliquely when he con-
sidered that he shouldn’t be an utter failure if he were to produce
some songs to which Mrs. Ryves’s accompaniments would give a cir-
culation. He had not ventured to show her anything yet, but one
morning, at a moment when her little boy was in his room, it seemed
to him that, by an inspiration, he had arrived at the happy middle
course (it was an art by itself ), between sound and sense. If the sense
was not confused it was because the sound was so familiar.
He had said to the child, to whom he had sacrificed barley-sugar
(it had no attraction for his own lips, yet in these days there was
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Henry James
always some of it about), he had confided to the small Sidney that if
he would wait a little he should be intrusted with something nice to
take down to his parent. Sidney had absorbing occupation and, while
Peter copied off the song in a pretty hand, roamed, gurgling and
sticky, about the room. In this manner he lurched like a little toper
into the rear of the davenport, which stood a few steps out from the
recess of the window, and, as he was fond of beating time to his
intensest joys, began to bang on the surface of it with a paper-knife
which at that spot had chanced to fall upon the floor. At the mo-
ment Sidney committed this violence his kind friend had happened
to raise the lid of the desk and, with his head beneath it, was rum-
maging among a mass of papers for a proper envelope. “I say, I say,
my boy!” he exclaimed, solicitous for the ancient glaze of his most
cherished possession. Sidney paused an instant; then, while Peter
still hunted for the envelope, he administered another, and this time
a distinctly disobedient, rap. Peter heard it from within and was
struck with its oddity of sound—so much so that, leaving the child
for a moment under a demoralising impression of impunity, he
waited with quick curiosity for a repetition of the stroke. It came of
course immediately, and then the young man, who had at the same
instant found his envelope and ejaculated “Hallo, this thing has a
false back!” jumped up and secured his visitor, whom with his left
arm he held in durance on his knee while with his free hand he
addressed the missive to Mrs. Ryves.
As Sidney was fond of errands he was easily got rid of, and after he
had gone Baron stood a moment at the window chinking pennies
and keys in pockets and wondering if the charming composer would
think his song as good, or in other words as bad, as he thought it.
His eyes as he turned away fell on the wooden back of the daven-
port, where, to his regret, the traces of Sidney’s assault were visible
in three or four ugly scratches. “Confound the little brute!” he ex-
claimed, feeling as if an altar had been desecrated. He was reminded,
242
however, of the observation this outrage had led him to make, and,
for further assurance, he knocked on the wood with his knuckle. It
sounded from that position commonplace enough, but his suspi-
cion was strongly confirmed when, again standing beside the desk,
he put his head beneath the lifted lid and gave ear while with an
extended arm he tapped sharply in the same place. The back was
distinctly hollow; there was a space between the inner and the outer
pieces (he could measure it), so wide that he was a fool not to have
noticed it before. The depth of the receptacle from front to rear was
so great that it could sacrifice a certain quantity of room without
detection. The sacrifice could of course only be for a purpose, and
the purpose could only be the creation of a secret compartment.
Peter Baron was still boy enough to be thrilled by the idea of such a
feature, the more so as every indication of it had been cleverly con-
cealed. The people at the shop had never noticed it, else they would
have called his attention to it as an enhancement of value. His leg-
endary lore instructed him that where there was a hiding-place there
was always a hidden spring, and he pried and pressed and fumbled
in an eager search for the sensitive spot. The article was really a
wonder of neat construction; everything fitted with a closeness that
completely saved appearances.
It took Baron some minutes to pursue his inquiry, during which
he reflected that the people of the shop were not such fools after all.
They had admitted moreover that they had accidentally neglected
this relic of gentility—it had been overlooked in the multiplicity of
their treasures. He now recalled that the man had wanted to polish
it up before sending it home, and that, satisfied for his own part
with its honourable appearance and averse in general to shiny furni-
ture, he had in his impatience declined to wait for such an opera-
tion, so that the object had left the place for Jersey Villas, carrying
presumably its secret with it, two or three hours after his visit. This
secret it seemed indeed capable of keeping; there was an absurdity
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Henry James
in being baffled, but Peter couldn’t find the spring. He thumped
and sounded, he listened and measured again; he inspected every
joint and crevice, with the effect of becoming surer still of the exist-
ence of a chamber and of making up his mind that his davenport
was a rarity. Not only was there a compartment between the two
backs, but there was distinctly something in the compartment! Per-
haps it was a lost manuscript—a nice, safe, old-fashioned story that
Mr. Locket wouldn’t object to. Peter returned to the charge, for it
had occurred to him that he had perhaps not sufficiently visited the
small drawers, of which, in two vertical rows, there were six in num-
ber, of different sizes, inserted sideways into that portion of the struc-
ture which formed part of the support of the desk. He took them out
again and examined more minutely the condition of their sockets,
with the happy result of discovering at last, in the place into which
the third on the left-hand row was fitted, a small sliding panel. Be-
hind the panel was a spring, like a flat button, which yielded with a
click when he pressed it and which instantly produced a loosening of
one of the pieces of the shelf forming the highest part of the daven-
port—pieces adjusted to each other with the most deceptive close-
ness.
This particular piece proved to be, in its turn, a sliding panel,
which, when pushed, revealed the existence of a smaller receptacle,
a narrow, oblong box, in the false back. Its capacity was limited, but
if it couldn’t hold many things it might hold precious ones. Baron,
in presence of the ingenuity with which it had been dissimulated,
immediately felt that, but for the odd chance of little Sidney Ryves’s
having hammered on the outside at the moment he himself hap-
pened to have his head in the desk, he might have remained for
years without suspicion of it. This apparently would have been a
loss, for he had been right in guessing that the chamber was not
empty. It contained objects which, whether precious or not, had at
any rate been worth somebody’s hiding. These objects were a collec-
244
tion of small fiat parcels, of the shape of packets of letters, wrapped
in white paper and neatly sealed. The seals, mechanically figured,
bore the impress neither of arms nor of initials; the paper looked
old—it had turned faintly sallow; the packets might have been there
for ages. Baron counted them—there were nine in all, of different
sizes; he turned them over and over, felt them curiously and snuffed
in their vague, musty smell, which affected him with the melan-
choly of some smothered human accent. The little bundles were
neither named nor numbered—there was not a word of writing on
any of the covers; but they plainly contained old letters, sorted and
matched according to dates or to authorship. They told some old,
dead story—they were the ashes of fires burned out.
As Peter Baron held his discoveries successively in his hands he
became conscious of a queer emotion which was not altogether ela-
tion and yet was still less pure pain. He had made a find, but it
somehow added to his responsibility; he was in the presence of some-
thing interesting, but (in a manner he couldn’t have defined) this
circumstance suddenly constituted a danger. It was the perception
of the danger, for instance, which caused to remain in abeyance any
impulse he might have felt to break one of the seals. He looked at
them all narrowly, but he was careful not to loosen them, and he
wondered uncomfortably whether the contents of the secret com-
partment would be held in equity to be the property of the people
in the King’s Road. He had given money for the davenport, but had
he given money for these buried papers?He paid by a growing con-
sciousness that a nameless chill had stolen into the air the penalty,
which he had many a time paid before, of being made of sensitive
stuff. It was as if an occasion had insidiously arisen for a sacrifice—
a sacrifice for the sake of a fine superstition, something like honour
or kindness or justice, something indeed perhaps even finer still—a
difficult deciphering of duty, an impossible tantalising wisdom.
Standing there before his ambiguous treasure and losing himself for
Sir Dominick Ferrand
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Henry James
the moment in the sense of a dawning complication, he was startled
by a light, quick tap at the door of his sitting-room. Instinctively,
before answering, he listened an instant—he was in the attitude of a
miser surprised while counting his hoard. Then he answered “One
moment, please!” and slipped the little heap of packets into the
biggest of the drawers of the davenport, which happened to be open.
The aperture of the false back was still gaping, and he had not time
to work back the spring. He hastily laid a big book over the place
and then went and opened his door.
It offered him a sight none the less agreeable for being unex-
pected—the graceful and agitated figure of Mrs. Ryves. Her agita-
tion was so visible that he thought at first that something dreadful
had happened to her child—that she had rushed up to ask for help,
to beg him to go for the doctor. Then he perceived that it was prob-
ably connected with the desperate verses he had transmitted to her
a quarter of an hour before; for she had his open manuscript in one
hand and was nervously pulling it about with the other. She looked
frightened and pretty, and if, in invading the privacy of a fellow-
lodger, she had been guilty of a departure from rigid custom, she
was at least conscious of the enormity of the step and incapable of
treating it with levity. The levity was for Peter Baron, who endeav-
oured, however, to clothe his familiarity with respect, pushing for-
ward the seat of honour and repeating that he rejoiced in such a
visit. The visitor came in, leaving the door ajar, and after a minute
during which, to help her, he charged her with the purpose of tell-
ing him that he ought to be ashamed to send her down such rub-
bish, she recovered herself sufficiently to stammer out that his song
was exactly what she had been looking for and that after reading it
she had been seized with an extraordinary, irresistible impulse—
that of thanking him for it in person and without delay.
“It was the impulse of a kind nature,” he said, “and I can’t tell you
what pleasure you give me.”
246
She declined to sit down, and evidently wished to appear to have
come but for a few seconds. She looked confusedly at the place in
which she found herself, and when her eyes met his own they struck
him as anxious and appealing. She was evidently not thinking of his
song, though she said three or four times over that it was beautiful.
“Well, I only wanted you to know, and now I must go,” she added;
but on his hearthrug she lingered with such an odd helplessness that
he felt almost sorry for her.
“Perhaps I can improve it if you find it doesn’t go,” said Baron. “I’m
so delighted to do anything for you I can.”
“There may be a word or two that might be changed,” she an-
swered, rather absently. “I shall have to think it over, to live with it
a little. But I like it, and that’s all I wanted to say.”
“Charming of you. I’m not a bit busy,” said Baron.
Again she looked at him with a troubled intensity, then suddenly
she demanded: “Is there anything the matter with you?”
“The matter with me?”
“I mean like being ill or worried. I wondered if there might be; I
had a sudden fancy; and that, I think, is really why I came up.”
“There isn’t, indeed; I’m all right. But your sudden fancies are
inspirations.”
“It’s absurd. You must excuse me. Good-by!” said Mrs. Ryves.
“What are the words you want changed?” Baron asked.
“I don’t want any—if you’re all right. Good-by,” his visitor re-
peated, fixing her eyes an instant on an object on his desk that had
caught them. His own glanced in the same direction and he saw
that in his hurry to shuffle away the packets found in the davenport
he had overlooked one of them, which lay with its seals exposed.
For an instant he felt found out, as if he had been concerned in
something to be ashamed of, and it was only his quick second thought
that told him how little the incident of which the packet was a
sequel was an affair of Mrs. Ryves’s. Her conscious eyes came back
Sir Dominick Ferrand
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Henry James
to his as if they were sounding them, and suddenly this instinct of
keeping his discovery to himself was succeeded by a really startled
inference that, with the rarest alertness, she had guessed something
and that her guess (it seemed almost supernatural), had been her
real motive. Some secret sympathy had made her vibrate—had
touched her with the knowledge that he had brought something to
light. After an instant he saw that she also divined the very reflec-
tion he was then making, and this gave him a lively desire, a grate-
ful, happy desire, to appear to have nothing to conceal. For herself,
it determined her still more to put an end to her momentary visit.
But before she had passed to the door he exclaimed: “All right?How
can a fellow be anything else who has just had such a find?”
She paused at this, still looking earnest and asking: “What have
you found?”
“Some ancient family papers, in a secret compartment of my writ-
ing-table.” And he took up the packet he had left out, holding it
before her eyes. “A lot of other things like that.”
“What are they?” murmured Mrs. Ryves.
“I haven’t the least idea. They’re sealed.”
“You haven’t broken the seals?” She had come further back.
“I haven’t had time; it only happened ten minutes ago.”
“I knew it,” said Mrs. Ryves, more gaily now.
“What did you know?”
“That you were in some predicament.”
“You’re extraordinary. I never heard of anything so miraculous;
down two flights of stairs.”
“Areyou in a quandary?” the visitor asked.
“Yes, about giving them back.” Peter Baron stood smiling at her
and rapping his packet on the palm of his hand. “What do you
advise?”
She herself smiled now, with her eyes on the sealed parcel. “Back
to whom?”
248
“The man of whom I bought the table.”
“Ah then, they’re not from your family?”
“No indeed, the piece of furniture in which they were hidden is
not an ancestral possession. I bought it at second hand—you see it’s
old—the other day in the King’s Road. Obviously the man who
sold it to me sold me more than he meant; he had no idea (from his
own point of view it was stupid of him), that there was a hidden
chamber or that mysterious documents were buried there. Ought I
to go and tell him?It’s rather a nice question.”
“Are the papers of value?” Mrs. Ryves inquired.
“I haven’t the least idea. But I can ascertain by breaking a seal.”
“Don’t!” said Mrs. Ryves, with much expression. She looked grave
again.
“It’s rather tantalising—it’s a bit of a problem,” Baron went on,
turning his packet over.
Mrs. Ryves hesitated. “Will you show me what you have in your
hand?”
He gave her the packet, and she looked at it and held it for an
instant to her nose. “It has a queer, charming old fragrance,” he
said.
“Charming?It’s horrid.” She handed him back the packet, saying
again more emphatically “Don’t!”
“Don’t break a seal?”
“Don’t give back the papers.”
“Is it honest to keep them?”
“Certainly. They’re yours as much as the people’s of the shop. They
were in the hidden chamber when the table came to the shop, and
the people had every opportunity to find them out. They didn’t—
therefore let them take the consequences.”
Peter Baron reflected, diverted by her intensity. She was pale, with
eyes almost ardent. “The table had been in the place for years.”
“That proves the things haven’t been missed.”
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Henry James
“Let me show you how they were concealed,” he rejoined; and he
exhibited the ingenious recess and the working of the curious spring.
She was greatly interested, she grew excited and became familiar;
she appealed to him again not to do anything so foolish as to give
up the papers, the rest of which, in their little blank, impenetrable
covers, he placed in a row before her. “They might be traced—their
history, their ownership,” he argued; to which she replied that this
was exactly why he ought to be quiet. He declared that women had
not the smallest sense of honour, and she retorted that at any rate
they have other perceptions more delicate than those of men. He
admitted that the papers might be rubbish, and she conceded that
nothing was more probable; yet when he offered to settle the point
off-hand she caught him by the wrist, acknowledging that, absurd
as it was, she was nervous. Finally she put the whole thing on the
ground of his just doing her a favour. She asked him to retain the
papers, to be silent about them, simply because it would please her.
That would be reason enough. Baron’s acquaintance, his agreeable
relations with her, advanced many steps in the treatment of this ques-
tion; an element of friendly candour made its way into their discus-
sion of it.
“I can’t make out why it matters to you, one way or the other, nor
why you should think it worth talking about,” the young man rea-
soned.
“Neither can I. It’s just a whim.”
“Certainly, if it will give you any pleasure, I’ll say nothing at the
shop.”
“That’s charming of you, and I’m very grateful. I see now that this
was why the spirit moved me to come up—to save them,” Mrs.
Ryves went on. She added, moving away, that now she had saved
them she must really go.
“To save them for what, if I mayn’t break the seals?” Baron asked.
“I don’t know—for a generous sacrifice.”
250
“Why should it be generous?What’s at stake?” Peter demanded,
leaning against the doorpost as she stood on the landing.
“I don’t know what, but I feel as if something or other were in
peril. Burn them up!” she exclaimed with shining eyes.
“Ah, you ask too much—I’m so curious about them!”
“Well, I won’t ask more than I ought, and I’m much obliged to
you for your promise to be quiet. I trust to your discretion. Good-
by.”
“You ought to reward my discretion,” said Baron, coming out to
the landing.
She had partly descended the staircase and she stopped, leaning
against the baluster and smiling up at him. “Surely you’ve had your
reward in the honour of my visit.”
“That’s delightful as far as it goes. But what will you do for me if
I burn the papers?”
Mrs. Ryves considered a moment. “Burn them first and you’ll
see!”
On this she went rapidly downstairs, and Baron, to whom the
answer appeared inadequate and the proposition indeed in that form
grossly unfair, returned to his room. The vivacity of her interest in a
question in which she had discoverably nothing at stake mystified,
amused and, in addition, irresistibly charmed him. She was deli-
cate, imaginative, inflammable, quick to feel, quick to act. He didn’t
complain of it, it was the way he liked women to be;, but he was not
impelled for the hour to commit the sealed packets to the flames.
He dropped them again into their secret well, and after that he went
out. He felt restless and excited; another day was lost for work—the
dreadful job to be performed for Mr. Locket was still further off.
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Henry James
CHAPTER III
TEN DAYS AFTER Mrs. Ryves’s visit he paid by appointment another
call on the editor of the Promiscuous. He found him in the little
wainscoted Chelsea house, which had to Peter’s sense the smoky
brownness of an old pipebowl, surrounded with all the emblems of
his office—a litter of papers, a hedge of encyclopaedias, a photo-
graphic gallery of popular contributors—and he promised at first to
consume very few of the moments for which so many claims com-
peted. It was Mr. Locket himself however who presently made the
interview spacious, gave it air after discovering that poor Baron had
come to tell him something more interesting than that he couldn’t
after all patch up his tale. Peter had begun with this, had intimated
respectfully that it was a case in which both practice and principle
rebelled, and then, perceiving how little Mr. Locket was affected by
his audacity, had felt weak and slightly silly, left with his heroism on
his hands. He had armed himself for a struggle, but the Promiscu-
ous didn’t even protest, and there would have been nothing for him
but to go away with the prospect of never coming again had he not
chanced to say abruptly, irrelevantly, as he got up from his chair:
“Do you happen to be at all interested in Sir Dominick Ferrand?”
Mr. Locket, who had also got up, looked over his glasses. “The
late Sir Dominick?”
“The only one; you know the family’s extinct.”
Mr. Locket shot his young friend another sharp glance, a silent
retort to the glibness of this information. “Very extinct indeed. I’m
252
afraid the subject today would scarcely be regarded as attractive.”
“Are you very sure?” Baron asked.
Mr. Locket leaned forward a little, with his fingertips on his table,
in the attitude of giving permission to retire. “I might consider the
question in a special connection.” He was silent a minute, in a way
that relegated poor Peter to the general; but meeting the young man’s
eyes again he asked: “Are you—a—thinking of proposing an article
upon him?”
“Not exactly proposing it—because I don’t yet quite see my way;
but the idea rather appeals to me.”
Mr. Locket emitted the safe assertion that this eminent statesman
had been a striking figure in his day; then he added: “Have you
been studying him?”
“I’ve been dipping into him.”
“I’m afraid he’s scarcely a question of the hour,” said Mr. Locket,
shuffling papers together.
“I think I could make him one,” Peter Baron declared.
Mr. Locket stared again; he was unable to repress an unattenuated “You?”
“I have some new material,” said the young man, colouring a little.
“That often freshens up an old story.”
“It buries it sometimes. It’s often only another tombstone.”
“That depends upon what it is. However,” Peter added, “the docu-
ments I speak of would be a crushing monument.”
Mr. Locket, hesitating, shot another glance under his glasses. “Do
you allude to—a—revelations?”
“Very curious ones.”
Mr. Locket, still on his feet, had kept his body at the bowing
angle; it was therefore easy for him after an instant to bend a little
further and to sink into his chair with a movement of his hand
toward the seat Baron had occupied. Baron resumed possession of
this convenience, and the conversation took a fresh start on a basis
which such an extension of privilege could render but little less hu-
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Henry James
miliating to our young man. He had matured no plan of confiding
his secret to Mr. Locket, and he had really come out to make him
conscientiously that other announcement as to which it appeared
that so much artistic agitation had been wasted. He had indeed
during the past days—days of painful indecision—appealed in imagi-
nation to the editor of the Promiscuous, as he had appealed to other
sources of comfort; but his scruples turned their face upon him
from quarters high as well as low, and if on the one hand he had by
no means made up his mind not to mention his strange knowledge,
he had still more left to the determination of the moment the ques-
tion of how he should introduce the subject. He was in fact too
nervous to decide; he only felt that he needed for his peace of mind
to communicate his discovery. He wanted an opinion, the impres-
sion of somebody else, and even in this intensely professional pres-
ence, five minutes after he had begun to tell his queer story, he felt
relieved of half his burden. His story was very queer; he could take
the measure of that himself as he spoke; but wouldn’t this very cir-
cumstance qualify it for the Promiscuous?
“Of course the letters may be forgeries,” said Mr. Locket at last.
“I’ve no doubt that’s what many people will say.”
“Have they been seen by any expert?”
“No indeed; they’ve been seen by nobody.”
“Have you got any of them with you?”
“No; I felt nervous about bringing them out.”
“That’s a pity. I should have liked the testimony of my eyes.”
“You may have it if you’ll come to my rooms. If you don’t care to
do that without a further guarantee I’ll copy you out some pas-
sages.”
“Select a few of the worst!” Mr. Locket laughed. Over Baron’s
distressing information he had become quite human and genial.
But he added in a moment more dryly: “You know they ought to be
seen by an expert.”
254
“That’s exactly what I dread,” said Peter.
“They’ll be worth nothing to me if they’re not.”
Peter communed with his innermost spirit. “How much will they
be worth to meif they are?”
Mr. Locket turned in his study-chair. “I should require to look at
them before answering that question.”
“I’ve been to the British museum—there are many of his letters
there. I’ve obtained permission to see them, and I’ve compared ev-
erything carefully. I repudiate the possibility of forgery. No sign of
genuineness is wanting; there are details, down to the very post-
marks, that no forger could have invented. Besides, whose interest
could it conceivably have been?A labor of unspeakable difficulty,
and all for what advantage?There are so many letters, too—twenty-
seven in all.”
“Lord, what an ass!” Mr. Locket exclaimed.
“It will be one of the strangest post-mortem revelations of which
history preserves the record.”
Mr. Locket, grave now, worried with a paper-knife the crevice of a
drawer. “It’s very odd. But to be worth anything such documents
should be subjected to a searching criticism—I mean of the histori-
cal kind.”
“Certainly; that would be the task of the writer introducing them
to the public.”
Again Mr. Locket considered; then with a smile he looked up.
“You had better give up original composition and take to buying
old furniture.”
“Do you mean because it will pay better?”
“For you, I should think, original composition couldn’t pay worse.
The creative faculty’s so rare.”
“I do feel tempted to turn my attention to real heroes,” Peter re-
plied.
“I’m bound to declare that Sir Dominick Ferrand was never one
Sir Dominick Ferrand
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Henry James
of mine. Flashy, crafty, second-rate—that’s how I’ve always read him.
It was never a secret, moreover, that his private life had its weak
spots. He was a mere flash in the pan.”
“He speaks to the people of this country,” said Baron.
“He did; but his voice—the voice, I mean, of his prestige—is
scarcely audible now.”
“They’re still proud of some of the things he did at the Foreign
Office—the famous ‘exchange’ with Spain, in the Mediterranean,
which took Europe so by surprise and by which she felt injured,
especially when it became apparent how much we had the best of
the bargain. Then the sudden, unexpected show of force by which
he imposed on the United States our interpretation of that tiresome
treaty—I could never make out what it was about. These were both
matters that no one really cared a straw about, but he made every
one feel as if they cared; the nation rose to the way he played his
trumps—it was uncommon. He was one of the few men we’ve had,
in our period, who took Europe, or took America, by surprise, made
them jump a bit; and the country liked his doing it—it was a pleas-
ant change. The rest of the world considered that they knew in any
case exactly what we would do, which was usually nothing at all.
Say what you like, he’s still a high name; partly also, no doubt, on
account of other things his early success and early death, his politi-
cal ‘cheek’ and wit; his very appearance—he certainly was hand-
some—and the possibilities (of future personal supremacy) which
it was the fashion at the time, which it’s the fashion still, to say had
passed away with him. He had been twice at the Foreign Office;
that alone was remarkable for a man dying at forty-four. What there-
fore will the country think when it learns he was venal?”
Peter Baron himself was not angry with Sir Dominick Ferrand,
who had simply become to him (he had been “reading up” fever-
ishly for a week) a very curious subject of psychological study; but
he could easily put himself in the place of that portion of the public
256
whose memory was long enough for their patriotism to receive a
shock. It was some time fortunately since the conduct of public
affairs had wanted for men of disinterested ability, but the extraor-
dinary documents concealed (of all places in the world—it was as
fantastic as a nightmare) in a “bargain” picked up at second-hand
by an obscure scribbler, would be a calculable blow to the retrospec-
tive mind. Baron saw vividly that if these relics should be made
public the scandal, the horror, the chatter would be immense. Im-
mense would be also the contribution to truth, the rectification of
history. He had felt for several days (and it was exactly what had
made him so nervous) as if he held in his hand the key to public
attention.
“There are too many things to explain,” Mr. Locket went on,
“and the singular provenance of your papers would count almost
overwhelmingly against them even if the other objections were met.
There would be a perfect and probably a very complicated pedigree
to trace. How did they get into your davenport, as you call it, and
how long had they been there?What hands secreted them?what
hands had, so incredibly, clung to them and preserved them?Who
are the persons mentioned in them?who are the correspondents,
the parties to the nefarious transactions?You say the transactions
appear to be of two distinct kinds—some of them connected with
public business and others involving obscure personal relations.”
“They all have this in common,” said Peter Baron, “that they con-
stitute evidence of uneasiness, in some instances of painful alarm,
on the writer’s part, in relation to exposure—the exposure in the
one case, as I gather, of the fact that he had availed himself of offi-
cial opportunities to promote enterprises (public works and that
sort of thing) in which he had a pecuniary stake. The dread of the
light in the other connection is evidently different, and these letters
are the earliest in date. They are addressed to a woman, from whom
he had evidently received money.”
Sir Dominick Ferrand
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Henry James
Mr. Locket wiped his glasses. “What woman?”
“I haven’t the least idea. There are lots of questions I can’t answer,
of course; lots of identities I can’t establish; lots of gaps I can’t fill.
But as to two points I’m clear, and they are the essential ones. In the
first place the papers in my possession are genuine; in the second
place they’re compromising.”
With this Peter Baron rose again, rather vexed with himself for hav-
ing been led on to advertise his treasure (it was his interlocutor’s per-
fectly natural scepticism that produced this effect), for he felt that he
was putting himself in a false position. He detected in Mr. Locket’s
studied detachment the fermentation of impulses from which, un-
successful as he was, he himself prayed to be delivered.
Mr. Locket remained seated; he watched Baron go across the room
for his hat and umbrella. “Of course, the question would come up
of whose property today such documents would legally he. There
are heirs, descendants, executors to consider.”
“In some degree perhaps; hut I’ve gone into that a little. Sir
Dominick Ferrand had no children, and he left no brothers and no
sisters. His wife survived him, but she died ten years ago. He can
have had no heirs and no executors to speak of, for he left no prop-
erty.”
‘’That’s to his honour and against your theory,’’ said Mr. Locket.
“I haveno theory. He left a largeish mass of debt,” Peter Baron
added. At this Mr. Locket got up, while his visitor pursued: “So far
as I can ascertain, though of course my inquiries have had to be very
rapid and superficial, there is no one now living, directly or indi-
rectly related to the personage in question, who would be likely to
suffer from any steps in the direction of publicity. It happens to be
a rare instance of a life that had, as it were, no loose ends. At least
there are none perceptible at present.”
“I see, I see,” said Mr. Locket. “But I don’t think I should care
much for your article.”
258
“What article?”
“The one you seem to wish to write, embodying this new matter.”
“Oh, I don’t wish to write it!” Peter exclaimed. And then he bade
his host good-by.
“Good-by,” said Mr. Locket. “Mind you, I don’t say that I think
there’s nothing in it.”
“You would think there was something in it if you were to see my
documents.”
“I should like to see the secret compartment,”
the caustic editor rejoined. “Copy me out some extracts.”
“To what end, if there’s no question of their being of use to you?”
“I don’t say that—I might like the letters themselves.”
“Themselves?”
“Not as the basis of a paper, but just to publish—for a sensation.”
“They’d sell your number!” Baron laughed.
“I daresay I should like to look at them,” Mr. Locket conceded
after a moment. “When should I find you at home?”
“Don’t come,” said the young man. “I make you no offer.”
“I might make you one,” the editor hinted. “Don’t trouble your-
self; I shall probably destroy them.” With this Peter Baron took his
departure, waiting however just afterwards, in the street near the
house, as if he had been looking out for a stray hansom, to which he
would not have signalled had it appeared. He thought Mr. Locket
might hurry after him, but Mr. Locket seemed to have other things
to do, and Peter Baron returned on foot to Jersey Villas.
Sir Dominick Ferrand
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Henry James
CHAPTER IV
ON THE EVENING that succeeded this apparently pointless encounter
he had an interview more conclusive with Mrs. Bundy, for whose
shrewd and philosophic view of life he had several times expressed,
even to the good woman herself, a considerable relish. The situation
at Jersey Villas (Mrs. Ryves had suddenly flown off to Dover) was
such as to create in him a desire for moral support, and there was a
kind of domestic determination in Mrs. Bundy which seemed, in
general, to advertise it. He had asked for her on coming in, but had
been told she was absent for the hour; upon which he had addressed
himself mechanically to the task of doing up his dishonoured manu-
script—the ingenious fiction about which Mr. Locket had been so
stupid—for further adventures and not improbable defeats. He
passed a restless, ineffective afternoon, asking himself if his genius
were a horrid delusion, looking out of his window for something
that didn’t happen, something that seemed now to be the advent of
a persuasive Mr. Locket and now the return, from an absence more
disappointing even than Mrs. Bundy’s, of his interesting neighbour
of the parlours. He was so nervous and so depressed that he was
unable even to fix his mind on the composition of the note with
which, on its next peregrination, it was necessary that his manu-
script should be accompanied. He was too nervous to eat, and he
forgot even to dine; he forgot to light his candles, he let his fire go
out, and it was in the melancholy chill of the late dusk that Mrs.
Bundy, arriving at last with his lamp, found him extended moodily
260
upon his sofa. She had been informed that he wished to speak to
her, and as she placed on the malodorous luminary an oily shade of
green pasteboard she expressed the friendly hope that there was
nothing wrong with his ‘ealth.
The young man rose from his couch, pulling himself together
sufficiently to reply that his health was well enough but that his
spirits were down in his hoots. He had a strong disposition to “draw”
his landlady on the subject of Mrs. Ryves, as well as a vivid convic-
tion that she constituted a theme as to which Mrs. Bundy would
require little pressure to tell him even more than she knew. At the
same time he hated to appear to pry into the secrets of his absent
friend; to discuss her with their bustling hostess resembled too much
for his taste a gossip with a tattling servant about an unconscious
employer. He left out of account however Mrs. Bundy’s knowledge
of the human heart, for it was this fine principle that broke down
the barriers after he had reflected reassuringly that it was not med-
dling with Mrs. Ryves’s affairs to try and find out if she struck such
an observer as happy. Crudely, abruptly, even a little blushingly, he
put the direct question to Mrs. Bundy, and this led tolerably straight
to another question, which, on his spirit, sat equally heavy (they
were indeed but different phases of the same), and which the good
woman answered with expression when she ejaculated: “Think it a
liberty for you to run down for a few hours?If she do, my dear sir,
just send her to me to talk to!” As regards happiness indeed she
warned Baron against imposing too high a standard on a young
thing who had been through so much, and before he knew it he
found himself, without the responsibility of choice, in submissive
receipt of Mrs. Bundy’s version of this experience. It was an inter-
esting picture, though it had its infirmities, one of them congenital
and consisting of the fact that it had sprung essentially from the
virginal brain of Miss Teagle. Amplified, edited, embellished by the
richer genius of Mrs. Bundy, who had incorporated with it and now
Sir Dominick Ferrand
261
Henry James
liberally introduced copious interleavings of Miss Teagle’s own ro-
mance, it gave Peter Baron much food for meditation, at the same
time that it only half relieved his curiosity about the causes of the
charming woman’s underlying strangeness. He sounded this note
experimentally in Mrs. Bundy’s ear, but it was easy to see that it
didn’t reverberate in her fancy. She had no idea of the picture it
would have been natural for him to desire that Mrs. Ryves should
present to him, and she was therefore unable to estimate the points
in respect to which his actual impression was irritating. She had
indeed no adequate conception of the intellectual requirements of a
young man in love. She couldn’t tell him why their faultless friend
was so isolated, so unrelated, so nervously, shrinkingly proud. On
the other hand she could tell him (he knew it already) that she had
passed many years of her life in the acquisition of accomplishments
at a seat of learning no less remote than Boulogne, and that Miss
Teagle had been intimately acquainted with the late Mr. Everard Ryves,
who was a “most rising” young man in the city, not making any year
less than his clear twelve hundred. “Now that he isn’t there to make
them, his mourning widow can’t live as she had then, can she?” Mrs.
Bundy asked.
Baron was not prepared to say that she could, but he thought of
another way she might live as he sat, the next day, in the train which
rattled him down to Dover. The place, as he approached it, seemed
bright and breezy to him; his roamings had been neither far enough
nor frequent enough to make the cockneyfied coast insipid. Mrs.
Bundy had of course given him the address he needed, and on emerg-
ing from the station he was on the point of asking what direction he
should take. His attention however at this moment was drawn away
by the bustle of the departing boat. He had been long enough shut
up in London to be conscious of refreshment in the mere act of
turning his face to Paris. He wandered off to the pier in company
with happier tourists and, leaning on a rail, watched enviously the
262
preparation, the agitation of foreign travel. It was for some minutes
a foretaste of adventure; but, ah, when was he to have the very
draught?He turned away as he dropped this interrogative sigh, and
in doing so perceived that in another part of the pier two ladies and
a little boy were gathered with something of the same wistfulness.
The little boy indeed happened to look round for a moment, upon
which, with the keenness of the predatory age, he recognised in our
young man a source of pleasures from which he lately had been
weaned. He bounded forward with irrepressible cries of “Geegee!”
and Peter lifted him aloft for an embrace. On putting him down the
pilgrim from Jersey Villas stood confronted with a sensibly severe
Miss Teagle, who had followed her little charge. “What’s the matter
with the old woman?” he asked himself as he offered her a hand
which she treated as the merest detail. Whatever it was, it was (and
very properly, on the part of a loyal suivante) the same complaint as
that of her employer, to whom, from a distance, for Mrs. Ryves had
not advanced an inch, he flourished his hat as she stood looking at
him with a face that he imagined rather white. Mrs. Ryves’s response
to this salutation was to shift her position in such a manner as to
appear again absorbed in the Calais boat. Peter Baron, however,
kept hold of the child, whom Miss Teagle artfully endeavoured to
wrest from him—a policy in which he was aided by Sidney’s own
rough but instinctive loyalty; and he was thankful for the happy
effect of being dragged by his jubilant friend in the very direction in
which he had tended for so many hours. Mrs. Ryves turned once
more as he came near, and then, from the sweet, strained smile with
which she asked him if he were on his way to France, he saw that if
she had been angry at his having followed her she had quickly got
over it.
“No, I’m not crossing; but it came over me that you might be,
and that’s why I hurried down—to catch you before you were off.”
“Oh, we can’t go—more’s the pity; but why, if we could,” Mrs.
Sir Dominick Ferrand
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Henry James
Ryves inquired, “should you wish to prevent it?”
“Because I’ve something to ask you first, something that may take
some time.” He saw now that her embarrassment had really not
been resentful; it had been nervous, tremulous, as the emotion of
an unexpected pleasure might have been. “That’s really why I deter-
mined last night, without asking your leave first to pay you this
little visit—that and the intense desire for another bout of horse-
play with Sidney. Oh, I’ve come to see you,” Peter Baron went on,
“and I won’t make any secret of the fact that I expect you to resign
yourself gracefully to the trial and give me all your time. The day’s
lovely, and I’m ready to declare that the place is as good as the day.
Let me drink deep of these things, drain the cup like a man who
hasn’t been out of London for months and months. Let me walk
with you and talk with you and lunch with you—I go back this
afternoon. Give me all your hours in short, so that they may live in
my memory as one of the sweetest occasions of life.”
The emission of steam from the French packet made such an up-
roar that Baron could breathe his passion into the young woman’s
ear without scandalising the spectators; and the charm which little
by little it scattered over his fleeting visit proved indeed to be the
collective influence of the conditions he had put into words. “What
is it you wish to ask me?” Mrs. Ryves demanded, as they stood there
together; to which he replied that he would tell her all about it if she
would send Miss Teagle off with Sidney. Miss Teagle, who was al-
ways anticipating her cue, had already begun ostentatiously to gaze
at the distant shores of France and was easily enough induced to
take an earlier start home and rise to the responsibility of stopping
on her way to contend with the butcher. She had however to retire
without Sidney, who clung to his recovered prey, so that the rest of
the episode was seasoned, to Baron’s sense, by the importunate twitch
of the child’s little, plump, cool hand. The friends wandered to-
gether with a conjugal air and Sidney not between them, hanging
264
wistfully, first, over the lengthened picture of the Calais boat, till
they could look after it, as it moved rumbling away, in a spell of
silence which seemed to confess—especially when, a moment later,
their eyes met—that it produced the same fond fancy in each. The
presence of the boy moreover was no hindrance to their talking in a
manner that they made believe was very frank. Peter Baron pres-
ently told his companion what it was he had taken a journey to ask,
and he had time afterwards to get over his discomfiture at her ap-
pearance of having fancied it might be something greater. She seemed
disappointed (but she was forgiving) on learning from him that he
had only wished to know if she judged ferociously his not having
complied with her request to respect certain seals.
“How ferociously do you suspect me of having judged it?” she
inquired.
“Why, to the extent of leaving the house the next moment.”
They were still lingering on the great granite pier when he touched
on this matter, and she sat down at the end while the breeze, warmed
by the sunshine, ruffled the purple sea. She coloured a little and
looked troubled, and after an instant she repeated interrogatively:
“The next moment?”
“As soon as I told you what I had done. I was scrupulous about
this, you will remember; I went straight downstairs to confess to
you. You turned away from me, saying nothing; I couldn’t imag-
ine—as I vow I can’t imagine now—why such a matter should ap-
pear so closely to touch you. I went out on some business and when
I returned you had quitted the house. It had all the look of my
having offended you, of your wishing to get away from me. You
didn’t even give me time to tell you how it was that, in spite of your
advice, I determined to see for myself what my discovery repre-
sented. You must do me justice and hear what determined me.”
Mrs. Ryves got up from her scat and asked him, as a particular
favour, not to allude again to his discovery. It was no concern of
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Henry James
hers at all, and she had no warrant for prying into his secrets. She
was very sorry to have been for a moment so absurd as to appear to
do so, and she humbly begged his pardon for her meddling. Saying
this she walked on with a charming colour in her cheek, while he
laughed out, though he was really bewildered, at the endless capri-
ciousness of women. Fortunately the incident didn’t spoil the hour,
in which there were other sources of satisfaction, and they took
their course to her lodgings with such pleasant little pauses and ex-
cursions by the way as permitted her to show him the objects of
interest at Dover. She let him stop at a wine-merchant’s and buy a
bottle for luncheon, of which, in its order, they partook, together
with a pudding invented by Miss Teagle, which, as they hypocriti-
cally swallowed it, made them look at each other in an intimacy of
indulgence. They came out again and, while Sidney grubbed in the
gravel of the shore, sat selfishly on the Parade, to the disappoint-
ment of Miss Teagle, who had fixed her hopes on a fly and a ladylike
visit to the castle. Baron had his eye on his watch—he had to think
of his train and the dismal return and many other melancholy things;
but the sea in the afternoon light was a more appealing picture; the
wind had gone down, the Channel was crowded, the sails of the
ships were white in the purple distance. The young man had asked
his companion (he had asked her before) when she was to come
back to Jersey Villas, and she had said that she should probably stay
at Dover another week. It was dreadfully expensive, but it was do-
ing the child all the good in the world, and if Miss Teagle could go
up for some things she should probably be able to manage an exten-
sion. Earlier in the day she had said that she perhaps wouldn’t re-
turn to Jersey Villas at all, or only return to wind up her connection
with Mrs. Bundy. At another moment she had spoken of an early
date, an immediate reoccupation of the wonderful parlours. Baron
saw that she had no plan, no real reasons, that she was vague and, in
secret, worried and nervous, waiting for something that didn’t de-
266
pend on herself. A silence of several minutes had fallen upon them
while they watched the shining sails; to which Mrs. Ryves put an
end by exclaiming abruptly, but without completing her sentence:
“Oh, if you had come to tell me you had destroyed them—”
“Those terrible papers?I like the way you talk about ‘destroying!’
You don’t even know what they are.”
“I don’t want to know; they put me into a state.”
“What sort of a state?”
“I don’t know; they haunt me.”
“They haunted me; that was why, early one morning, suddenly, I
couldn’t keep my hands off them. I had told you I wouldn’t touch
them. I had deferred to your whim, your superstition (what is it?)
but at last they got the better of me. I had lain awake all night
threshing about, itching with curiosity. It made me ill; my own nerves
(as I may say) were irritated, my capacity to work was gone. It had
come over me in the small hours in the shape of an obsession, a
fixed idea, that there was nothing in the ridiculous relics and that
my exaggerated scruples were making a fool of me. It was ten to one
they were rubbish, they were vain, they were empty; that they had
been even a practical joke on the part of some weak-minded gentle-
man of leisure, the former possessor of the confounded davenport.
The longer I hovered about them with such precautions the longer I
was taken in, and the sooner I exposed their insignificance the sooner
I should get back to my usual occupations. This conviction made my
hand so uncontrollable that that morning before breakfast I broke
one of the seals. It took me but a few minutes to perceive that the
contents were not rubbish; the little bundle contained old letters—
very curious old letters.”
“I know—I know; ‘private and confidential.’ So you broke the
other seals?” Mrs. Ryves looked at him with the strange apprehen-
sion he had seen in her eyes when she appeared at his door the
moment after his discovery.
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“You know, of course, because I told you an hour later, though
you would let me tell you very little.”
Baron, as he met this queer gaze, smiled hard at her to prevent her
guessing that he smarted with the fine reproach conveyed in the
tone of her last words; but she appeared able to guess everything,
for she reminded him that she had not had to wait that morning till
he came downstairs to know what had happened above, but had
shown him at the moment how she had been conscious of it an
hour before, had passed on her side the same tormented night as he,
and had had to exert extraordinary self-command not to rush up to
his rooms while the study of the open packets was going on. “You’re
so sensitively organised and you’ve such mysterious powers that you
re uncanny,” Baron declared.
“I feel what takes place at a distance; that’s all.”
“One would think somebody you liked was in danger.”
“I told you that that was what was present to me the day I came
up to see you.”
“Oh, but you don’t like me so much as that,” Baron argued, laugh-
ing.
She hesitated. “No, I don’t know that I do.”
“It must be for someone else—the other person concerned. The
other day, however, you wouldn’t let me tell you that person’s name.”
Mrs. Ryves, at this, rose quickly. “I don’t want to know it; it’s
none of my business.”
“No, fortunately, I don’t think it is,” Baron rejoined, walking with
her along the Parade. She had Sidney by the hand now, and the
young man was on the other side of her. They moved toward the
station—she had offered to go part of the way. “But with your mi-
raculous gift it’s a wonder you haven’t divined.”
“I only divine what I want,” said Mrs. Ryves.
“That’s very convenient!” exclaimed Peter, to whom Sidney had
presently come round again. “Only, being thus in the dark, it’s dif-
268
ficult to see your motive for wishing the papers destroyed.”
Mrs. Ryves meditated, looking fixedly at the ground. “I thought
you might do it to oblige me.”
“Does it strike you that such an expectation, formed in such con-
ditions, is reasonable?”
Mrs. Ryves stopped short, and this time she turned on him the
clouded clearness of her eyes. “What do you mean to do with them?”
It was Peter Baron’s turn to meditate, which he did, on the empty
asphalt of the Parade (the “season,” at Dover, was not yet), where
their shadows were long in the afternoon light. He was under such
a charm as he had never known, and he wanted immensely to be
able to reply: “I’ll do anything you like if you’ll love me.” These
words, however, would have represented a responsibility and have
constituted what was vulgarly termed an offer. An offer of what?he
quickly asked himself here, as he had already asked himself after
making in spirit other awkward dashes in the same direction—of
what but his poverty, his obscurity, his attempts that had come to
nothing, his abilities for which there was nothing to show?Mrs.
Ryves was not exactly a success, but she was a greater success than
Peter Baron. Poor as he was he hated the sordid (he knew she didn’t
love it), and he felt small for talking of marriage. Therefore he didn’t
put the question in the words it would have pleased him most to
hear himself utter, but he compromised, with an angry young pang,
and said to her: “What will you do for me if I put an end to them?”
She shook her head sadly—it was always her prettiest movement.
“I can promise nothing—oh, no, I can’t promise! We must part
now,” she added. “You’ll miss your train.”
He looked at his watch, taking the hand she held out to him. She
drew it away quickly, and nothing then was left him, before hurry-
ing to the station, but to catch up Sidney and squeeze him till he
uttered a little shriek. On the way back to town the situation struck
him as grotesque.
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Henry James
CHAPTER V
IT TORMENTED HIM so the next morning that after threshing it out a
little further he felt he had something of a grievance. Mrs. Ryves’s
intervention had made him acutely uncomfortable, for she had taken
the attitude of exerting pressure without, it appeared, recognising
on his part an equal right. She had imposed herself as an influence,
yet she held herself aloof as a participant; there were things she looked
to him to do for her, yet she could tell him of no good that would
come to him from the doing. She should either have had less to say
or have been willing to say more, and he asked himself why he should
be the sport of her moods and her mysteries. He perceived her knack
of punctual interference to be striking, but it was just this apparent
infallibility that he resented. Why didn’t she set up at once as a
professional clairvoyant and eke out her little income more success-
fully?In purely private life such a gift was disconcerting; her divina-
tions, her evasions disturbed at any rate his own tranquillity.
What disturbed it still further was that he received early in the
day a visit from Mr. Locket, who, leaving him under no illusion as
to the grounds of such an honour, remarked as soon as he had got
into the room or rather while he still panted on the second flight
and the smudged little slavey held open Baron’s door, that he had
taken up his young friend’s invitation to look at Sir Dominick
Ferrand’s letters for himself. Peter drew them forth with a prompti-
tude intended to show that he recognised the commercial character
of the call and without attenuating the inconsequence of this depar-
270
ture from the last determination he had expressed to Mr. Locket.
He showed his visitor the davenport and the hidden recess, and he
smoked a cigarette, humming softly, with a sense of unwonted ad-
vantage and triumph, while the cautious editor sat silent and handled
the papers. For all his caution Mr. Locket was unable to keep a
warmer light out of his judicial eye as he said to Baron at last with
sociable brevity—a tone that took many things for granted: “I’ll
take them home with me—they require much attention.”
The young man looked at him a moment. “Do you think they’re
genuine?” He didn’t mean to be mocking, he meant not to be; but
the words sounded so to his own ear, and he could see that they
produced that effect on Mr. Locket.
“I can’t in the least determine. I shall have to go into them at my
leisure, and that’s why I ask you to lend them to me.”
He had shuffled the papers together with a movement charged,
while he spoke, with the air of being preliminary to that of thrust-
ing them into a little black bag which he had brought with him and
which, resting on the shelf of the davenport, struck Peter, who viewed
it askance, as an object darkly editorial. It made our young man,
somehow, suddenly apprehensive; the advantage of which he had
just been conscious was about to be transferred by a quiet process of
legerdemain to a person who already had advantages enough. Baron,
in short, felt a deep pang of anxiety; he couldn’t have said why. Mr.
Locket took decidedly too many things for granted, and the ex-
plorer of Sir Dominick Ferrand’s irregularities remembered afresh
how clear he had been after all about his indisposition to traffic in
them. He asked his visitor to what end he wished to remove the
letters, since on the one hand there was no question now of the
article in the Promiscuous which was to reveal their existence, and
on the other he himself, as their owner, had a thousand insurmount-
able scruples about putting them into circulation.
Mr. Locket looked over his spectacles as over the battlements of a
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Henry James
fortress. “I’m not thinking of the end—I’m thinking of the begin-
ning. A few glances have assured me that such documents ought to
be submitted to some competent eye.”
“Oh, you mustn’t show them to anyone!” Baron exclaimed.
“You may think me presumptuous, but the eye that I venture to
allude to in those terms—”
“Is the eye now fixed so terribly on me?” Peter laughingly inter-
rupted. “Oh, it would be interesting, I confess, to know how they
strike a man of your acuteness!” It had occurred to him that by such
a concession he might endear himself to a literary umpire hitherto
implacable. There would be no question of his publishing Sir
Dominick Ferrand, but he might, in due acknowledgment of ser-
vices rendered, form the habit of publishing Peter Baron. “How
long would it be your idea to retain them?” he inquired, in a man-
ner which, he immediately became aware, was what incited Mr.
Locket to begin stuffing the papers into his bag. With this percep-
tion he came quickly closer and, laying his hand on the gaping re-
ceptacle, lightly drew its two lips together. In this way the two men
stood for a few seconds, touching, almost in the attitude of combat,
looking hard into each other’s eyes.
The tension was quickly relieved however by the surprised flush
which mantled on Mr. Locket’s brow. He fell back a few steps with
an injured dignity that might have been a protest against physical
violence. “Really, my dear young sir, your attitude is tantamount to
an accusation of intended bad faith. Do you think I want to steal
the confounded things?” In reply to such a challenge Peter could
only hastily declare that he was guilty of no discourteous suspicion—
he only wanted a limit named, a pledge of every precaution against
accident. Mr. Locket admitted the justice of the demand, assured
him he would restore the property within three days, and completed,
with Peter’s assistance, his little arrangements for removing it dis-
creetly. When he was ready, his treacherous reticule distended with
272
its treasures, he gave a lingering look at the inscrutable davenport.
“It’s how they ever got into that thing that puzzles one’s brain!”
“There was some concatenation of circumstances that would
doubtless seem natural enough if it were explained, but that one
would have to remount the stream of time to ascertain. To one course
I have definitely made up my mind: not to make any statement or
any inquiry at the shop. I simply accept the mystery,” said Peter,
rather grandly.
“That would be thought a cheap escape if you were to put it into
a story,” Mr. Locket smiled.
“Yes, I shouldn’t offer the story to you. I shall be impatient till I
see my papers again,” the young man called out, as his visitor hur-
ried downstairs.
That evening, by the last delivery, he received, under the Dover
postmark, a letter that was not from Miss Teagle. It was a slightly
confused but altogether friendly note, written that morning after
breakfast, the ostensible purpose of which was to thank him for the
amiability of his visit, to express regret at any appearance the writer
might have had of meddling with what didn’t concern her, and to
let him know that the evening before, after he had left her, she had
in a moment of inspiration got hold of the tail of a really musical
idea—a perfect accompaniment for the song he had so kindly given
her. She had scrawled, as a specimen, a few bars at the end of her
note, mystic, mocking musical signs which had no sense for her
correspondent. The whole letter testified to a restless but rather point-
less desire to remain in communication with him. In answering her,
however, which he did that night before going to bed, it was on this
bright possibility of their collaboration, its advantages for the future
of each of them, that Baron principally expatiated. He spoke of this
future with an eloquence of which he would have defended the
sincerity, and drew of it a picture extravagantly rich. The next morn-
ing, as he was about to settle himself to tasks for some time terribly
Sir Dominick Ferrand
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Henry James
neglected, with a sense that after all it was rather a relief not to be
sitting so close to Sir Dominick Ferrand, who had become dread-
fully distracting; at the very moment at which he habitually ad-
dressed his preliminary invocation to the muse, he was agitated by
the arrival of a telegram which proved to be an urgent request from
Mr. Locket that he would immediately come down and see him.
This represented, for poor Baron, whose funds were very low, an-
other morning sacrificed, but somehow it didn’t even occur to him
that he might impose his own time upon the editor of the Promis-
cuous, the keeper of the keys of renown. He had some of the plas-
ticity of the raw contributor. He gave the muse another holiday,
feeling she was really ashamed to take it, and in course of time found
himself in Mr. Locket’s own chair at Mr. Locket’s own table—so
much nobler an expanse than the slippery slope of the davenport—
considering with quick intensity, in the white flash of certain words
just brought out by his host, the quantity of happiness, of emanci-
pation that might reside in a hundred pounds.
Yes, that was what it meant: Mr. Locket, in the twenty-four hours,
had discovered so much in Sir Dominick’s literary remains that his
visitor found him primed with an offer. A hundred pounds would
be paid him that day, that minute, and no questions would be ei-
ther asked or answered. “I take all the risks, I take all the risks,” the
editor of the Promiscuous repeated. The letters were out on the
table, Mr. Locket was on the hearthrug, like an orator on a plat-
form, and Peter, under the influence of his sudden ultimatum, had
dropped, rather weakly, into the seat which happened to be nearest
and which, as he became conscious it moved on a pivot, he whirled
round so as to enable himself to look at his tempter with an eye
intended to be cold. What surprised him most was to find Mr. Locket
taking exactly the line about the expediency of publication which
he would have expected Mr. Locket not to take. “Hush it all up; a
barren scandal, an offence that can’t be remedied, is the thing in the
274
world that least justifies an airing—” some such line as that was the
line he would have thought natural to a man whose life was spent in
weighing questions of propriety and who had only the other day
objected, in the light of this virtue, to a work of the most disinter-
ested art. But the author of that incorruptible masterpiece had put
his finger on the place in saying to his interlocutor on the occasion
of his last visit that, if given to the world in the pages of the Promis-
cuous, Sir Dominick’s aberrations would sell the edition. It was not
necessary for Mr. Locket to reiterate to his young friend his phrase
about their making a sensation. If he wished to purchase the “rights,”
as theatrical people said, it was not to protect a celebrated name or to
lock them up in a cupboard. That formula of Baron’s covered all the
ground, and one edition was a low estimate of the probable perfor-
mance of the magazine.
Peter left the letters behind him and, on withdrawing from the
editorial presence, took a long walk on the Embankment. His im-
pressions were at war with each other—he was flurried by possibili-
ties of which he yet denied the existence. He had consented to trust
Mr. Locket with the papers a day or two longer, till he should have
thought out the terms on which he might—in the event of certain
occurrences—be induced to dispose of them. A hundred pounds
were not this gentleman’s last word, nor perhaps was mere unrea-
soning intractability Peter’s own. He sighed as he took no note of
the pictures made by barges—sighed because it all might mean
money. He needed money bitterly; he owed it in disquieting quar-
ters. Mr. Locket had put it before him that he had a high responsi-
bility—that he might vindicate the disfigured truth, contribute a
chapter to the history of England. “You haven’t a right to suppress
such momentous facts,” the hungry little editor had declared, think-
ing how the series (he would spread it into three numbers) would
be the talk of the town. If Peter had money he might treat himself
to ardour, to bliss. Mr. Locket had said, no doubt justly enough,
Sir Dominick Ferrand
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Henry James
that there were ever so many questions one would have to meet
should one venture to play so daring a game. These questions, em-
barrassments, dangers—the danger, for instance, of the cropping-
up of some lurking litigious relative—he would take over unreserv-
edly and bear the brunt of dealing with. It was to be remembered
that the papers were discredited, vitiated by their childish pedigree;
such a preposterous origin, suggesting, as he had hinted before, the
feeble ingenuity of a third-rate novelist, was a thing he should have
to place himself at the positive disadvantage of being silent about.
He would rather give no account of the matter at all than expose
himself to the ridicule that such a story would infallibly excite.
Couldn’t one see them in advance, the clever, taunting things the
daily and weekly papers would say?Peter Baron had his guileless
side, but he felt, as he worried with a stick that betrayed him the
granite parapets of the Thames, that he was not such a fool as not to
know how Mr. Locket would “work” the mystery of his marvellous
find. Nothing could help it on better with the public than the im-
penetrability of the secret attached to it. If Mr. Locket should only
be able to kick up dust enough over the circumstances that had
guided his hand his fortune would literally be made. Peter thought
a hundred pounds a low bid, yet he wondered how the Promiscu-
ous could bring itself to offer such a sum—so large it loomed in the
light of literary remuneration as hitherto revealed to our young man.
The explanation of this anomaly was of course that the editor
shrewdly saw a dozen ways of getting his money back. There would
be in the “sensation,” at a later stage, the making of a book in large
type—the book of the hour; and the profits of this scandalous vol-
ume or, if one preferred the name, this reconstruction, before an
impartial posterity, of a great historical humbug, the sum “down,”
in other words, that any lively publisher would give for it, figured
vividly in Mr. Locket’s calculations. It was therefore altogether an
opportunity of dealing at first hand with the lively publisher that
276
Peter was invited to forego. Peter gave a masterful laugh, rejoicing
in his heart that, on the spot, in the repaire he had lately quitted, he
had not been tempted by a figure that would have approximately
represented the value of his property. It was a good job, he mentally
added as he turned his face homeward, that there was so little like-
lihood of his having to struggle with that particular pressure.
Sir Dominick Ferrand
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Henry James
CHAPTER VI
WHEN, HALF AN HOUR LATER, he approached Jersey Villas, he noticed
that the house-door was open; then, as he reached the gate, saw it
make a frame for an unexpected presence. Mrs. Ryves, in her bon-
net and jacket, looked out from it as if she were expecting some-
thing—as if she had been passing to and fro to watch. Yet when he
had expressed to her that it was a delightful welcome she replied
that she had only thought there might possibly be a cab in sight. He
offered to go and look for one, upon which it appeared that after all
she was not, as yet at least, in need. He went back with her into her
sitting-room, where she let him know that within a couple of days
she had seen clearer what was best; she had determined to quit Jer-
sey Villas and had come up to take away her things, which she had
just been packing and getting together.
“I wrote you last night a charming letter in answer to yours,”
Baron said. “You didn’t mention in yours that you were coming
up.”
“It wasn’t your answer that brought me. It hadn’t arrived when I
came away.”
“You’ll see when you get back that my letter is charming.”
“I daresay.” Baron had observed that the room was not, as she had
intimated, in confusion—Mrs. Ryves’s preparations for departure
were not striking. She saw him look round and, standing in front of
the fireless grate with her hands behind her, she suddenly asked:
“Where have you come from now?”
278
“From an interview with a literary friend.”
“What are you concocting between you?”
“Nothing at all. We’ve fallen out—we don’t agree.”
“Is he a publisher?”
“He’s an editor.”
“Well, I’m glad you don’t agree. I don’t know what he wants, but,
whatever it is, don’t do it.”
“He must do what I want!” said Baron.
“And what’s that?”
“Oh, I’ll tell you when he has done it!” Baron begged her to let
him hear the “musical idea” she had mentioned in her letter; on
which she took off her hat and jacket and, seating herself at her
piano, gave him, with a sentiment of which the very first notes thrilled
him, the accompaniment of his song. She phrased the words with
her sketchy sweetness, and he sat there as if he had been held in a
velvet vise, throbbing with the emotion, irrecoverable ever after in
its freshness, of the young artist in the presence for the first time of
“production”—the proofs of his book, the hanging of his picture,
the rehearsal of his play. When she had finished he asked again for
the same delight, and then for more music and for more; it did him
such a world of good, kept him quiet and safe, smoothed out the
creases of his spirit. She dropped her own experiments and gave
him immortal things, and he lounged there, pacified and charmed,
feeling the mean little room grow large and vague and happy possi-
bilities come back. Abruptly, at the piano, she called out to him:
“Those papers of yours—the letters you found—are not in the
house?”
“No, they’re not in the house.”
“I was sure of it! No matter—it’s all right!” she added. She herself
was pacified—trouble was a false note. Later he was on the point of
asking her how she knew the objects she had mentioned were not in
the house; but he let it pass. The subject was a profitless riddle—a
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Henry James
puzzle that grew grotesquely bigger, like some monstrosity seen in
the darkness, as one opened one’s eyes to it. He closed his eyes—he
wanted another vision. Besides, she had shown him that she had
extraordinary senses—her explanation would have been stranger than
the fact. Moreover they had other things to talk about, in particular
the question of her putting off her return to Dover till the morrow
and dispensing meanwhile with the valuable protection of Sidney.
This was indeed but another face of the question of her dining with
him somewhere that evening (where else should she dine?)—ac-
companying him, for instance, just for an hour of Bohemia, in their
deadly respectable lives, to a jolly little place in Soho. Mrs. Ryves
declined to have her life abused, but in fact, at the proper moment,
at the jolly little place, to which she did accompany him—it dealt
in macaroni and Chianti—the pair put their elbows on the crumpled
cloth and, face to face, with their little emptied coffee-cups pushed
away and the young man’s cigarette lighted by her command, be-
came increasingly confidential. They went afterwards to the the-
atre, in cheap places, and came home in “busses” and under um-
brellas.
On the way back Peter Baron turned something over in his mind
as he had never turned anything before; it was the question of
whether, at the end, she would let him come into her sitting-room
for five minutes. He felt on this point a passion of suspense and
impatience, and yet for what would it be but to tell her how poor he
was?This was literally the moment to say it, so supremely depleted
had the hour of Bohemia left him. Even Bohemia was too expen-
sive, and yet in the course of the day his whole temper on the sub-
ject of certain fitnesses had changed. At Jersey Villas (it was near
midnight, and Mrs. Ryves, scratching a light for her glimmering
taper, had said: “Oh, yes, come in for a minute if you like!”), in her
precarious parlour, which was indeed, after the brilliances of the
evening, a return to ugliness and truth, she let him stand while he
280
explained that he had certainly everything in the way of fame and
fortune still to gain, but that youth and love and faith and energy—
to say nothing of her supreme dearness—were all on his side. Why,
if one’s beginnings were rough, should one add to the hardness of
the conditions by giving up the dream which, if she would only
hear him out, would make just the blessed difference?Whether Mrs.
Ryves heard him out or not is a circumstance as to which this
chronicle happens to be silent; but after he had got possession of
both her hands and breathed into her face for a moment all the
intensity of his tenderness—in the relief and joy of utterance he felt
it carry him like a rising flood—she checked him with better rea-
sons, with a cold, sweet afterthought in which he felt there was
something deep. Her procrastinating head-shake was prettier than
ever, yet it had never meant so many fears and pains—impossibili-
ties and memories, independences and pieties, and a sort of uncom-
plaining ache for the ruin of a friendship that had been happy. She
had liked him—if she hadn’t she wouldn’t have let him think so!—
but she protested that she had not, in the odious vulgar sense, “en-
couraged” him. Moreover she couldn’t talk of such things in that
place, at that hour, and she begged him not to make her regret her
good-nature in staying over. There were peculiarities in her posi-
tion, considerations insurmountable. She got rid of him with kind
and confused words, and afterwards, in the dull, humiliated night,
he felt that he had been put in his place. Women in her situation,
women who after having really loved and lost, usually lived on into
the new dawns in which old ghosts steal away. But there was some-
thing in his whimsical neighbour that struck him as terribly invul-
nerable.
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Henry James
CHAPTER VII
“I’VE HAD TIME TO LOOK a little further into what we’re prepared to
do, and I find the case is one in which I should consider the advis-
ability of going to an extreme length,” said Mr. Locket. Jersey Villas
the next morning had had the privilege of again receiving the editor
of the Promiscuous, and he sat once more at the davenport, where
the bone of contention, in the shape of a large, loose heap of papers
that showed how much they had been handled, was placed well in
view. “We shall see our way to offering you three hundred, but we
shouldn’t, I must positively assure you, see it a single step further.”
Peter Baron, in his dressing-gown and slippers, with his hands in
his pockets, crept softly about the room, repeating, below his breath
and with inflections that for his own sake he endeavoured to make
humorous: “Three hundred—three hundred.” His state of mind
was far from hilarious, for he felt poor and sore and disappointed;
but he wanted to prove to himself that he was gallant—was made,
in general and in particular, of undiscourageable stuff. The first thing
he had been aware of on stepping into his front room was that a four-
wheeled cab, with Mrs. Ryves’s luggage upon it, stood at the door of
No. 3. Permitting himself, behind his curtain, a pardonable peep, he
saw the mistress of his thoughts come out of the house, attended by
Mrs. Bundy, and take her place in the modest vehicle. After this his eyes
rested for a long time on the sprigged cotton back of the landlady, who
kept bobbing at the window of the cab an endlessly moralising old
head. Mrs. Ryves had really taken flight—he had made Jersey Villas
282
impossible for her—but Mrs. Bundy, with a magnanimity unprec-
edented in the profession, seemed to express a belief in the purity of her
motives. Baron felt that his own separation had been, for the present at
least, effected; every instinct of delicacy prompted him to stand back.
Mr. Locket talked a long time, and Peter Baron listened and waited.
He reflected that his willingness to listen would probably excite hopes
in his visitor—hopes which he himself was ready to contemplate
without a scruple. He felt no pity for Mr. Locket and had no con-
sideration for his suspense or for his possible illusions; he only felt
sick and forsaken and in want of comfort and of money. Yet it was a
kind of outrage to his dignity to have the knife held to his throat,
and he was irritated above all by the ground on which Mr. Locket
put the question—the ground of a service rendered to historical
truth. It might be—he wasn’t clear; it might be—the question was
deep, too deep, probably, for his wisdom; at any rate he had to
control himself not to interrupt angrily such dry, interested palaver,
the false voice of commerce and of cant. He stared tragically out of
the window and saw the stupid rain begin to fall; the day was duller
even than his own soul, and Jersey Villas looked so sordidly hideous
that it was no wonder Mrs. Ryves couldn’t endure them. Hideous as
they were he should have to tell Mrs. Bundy in the course of the day
that he was obliged to seek humbler quarters. Suddenly he inter-
rupted Mr. Locket; he observed to him: “I take it that if I should
make you this concession the hospitality of the Promiscuous would
be by that very fact unrestrictedly secured to me.”
Mr. Locket stared. “Hospitality—secured?” He thumbed the
proposition as if it were a hard peach.
“I mean that of course you wouldn’t—in courtsey, in gratitude—
keep on declining my things.”
“I should give them my best attention—as I’ve always done in the
past.”
Peter Baron hesitated. It was a case in which there would have
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seemed to be some chance for the ideally shrewd aspirant in such an
advantage as he possessed; but after a moment the blood rushed
into his face with the shame of the idea of pleading for his produc-
tions in the name of anything but their merit. It was as if he had
stupidly uttered evil of them. Nevertheless be added the interroga-
tion:
“Would you for instance publish my little story?”
“The one I read (and objected to some features of ) the other day?
Do you mean—a—with the alteration?” Mr. Locket continued.
“Oh, no, I mean utterly without it. The pages you want altered
contain, as I explained to you very lucidly, I think, the very raison
d’etre of the work, and it would therefore, it seems to me, be an
imbecility of the first magnitude to cancel them.” Peter had really
renounced all hope that his critic would understand what he meant,
but, under favour of circumstances, he couldn’t forbear to taste the
luxury, which probably never again would come within his reach,
of being really plain, for one wild moment, with an editor.
Mr. Locket gave a constrained smile. “Think of the scandal, Mr.
Baron.”
“But isn’t this other scandal just what you’re going in for?”
“It will be a great public service.”
“You mean it will be a big scandal, whereas my poor story would
be a very small one, and that it’s only out of a big one that money’s
to be made.”
Mr. Locket got up—he too had his dignity to vindicate. “Such a
sum as I offer you ought really to be an offset against all claims.”
“Very good—I don’t mean to make any, since you don’t really care
for what I write. I take note of your offer,” Peter pursued, “and I
engage to give you to-night (in a few words left by my own hand at
your house) my absolutely definite and final reply.”
Mr. Locket’s movements, as he hovered near the relics of the emi-
nent statesman, were those of some feathered parent fluttering over
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a threatened nest. If he had brought his huddled brood back with
him this morning it was because he had felt sure enough of closing
the bargain to be able to be graceful. He kept a glittering eye on the
papers and remarked that he was afraid that before leaving them he
must elicit some assurance that in the meanwhile Peter would not
place them in any other hands. Peter, at this, gave a laugh of harsher
cadence than he intended, asking, justly enough, on what privilege
his visitor rested such a demand and why he himself was disquali-
fied from offering his wares to the highest bidder. “Surely you
wouldn’t hawk such things about?” cried Mr. Locket; but before
Baron had time to retort cynically he added: “I’ll publish your little
story.”
“Oh, thank you!”
“I’ll publish anything you’ll send me,” Mr. Locket continued, as
he went out. Peter had before this virtually given his word that for
the letters he would treat only with the Promiscuous.
The young man passed, during a portion of the rest of the day,
the strangest hours of his life. Yet he thought of them afterwards not
as a phase of temptation, though they had been full of the emotion
that accompanies an intense vision of alternatives. The struggle was
already over; it seemed to him that, poor as he was, he was not poor
enough to take Mr. Locket’s money. He looked at the opposed courses
with the self-possession of a man who has chosen, but this self-
possession was in itself the most exquisite of excitements. It was
really a high revulsion and a sort of noble pity. He seemed indeed to
have his finger upon the pulse of history and to be in the secret of
the gods. He had them all in his hand, the tablets and the scales and
the torch. He couldn’t keep a character together, but he might easily
pull one to pieces. That would be “creative work” of a kind—he
could reconstruct the character less pleasingly, could show an un-
known side of it. Mr. Locket had had a good deal to say about
responsibility; and responsibility in truth sat there with him all the
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morning, while he revolved in his narrow cage and, watching the
crude spring rain on the windows, thought of the dismalness to
which, at Dover, Mrs. Ryves was going back. This influence took in
fact the form, put on the physiognomy of poor Sir Dominick
Ferrand; he was at present as perceptible in it, as coldly and strangely
personal, as if he had been a haunting ghost and had risen beside his
own old hearthstone. Our friend was accustomed to his company
and indeed had spent so many hours in it of late, following him up
at the museum and comparing his different portraits, engravings
and lithographs, in which there seemed to be conscious, pleading
eyes for the betrayer, that their queer intimacy had grown as close as
an embrace. Sir Dominick was very dumb, but he was terrible in his
dependence, and Peter would not have encouraged him by so much
curiosity nor reassured him by so much deference had it not been
for the young man’s complete acceptance of the impossibility of
getting out of a tight place by exposing an individual. It didn’t mat-
ter that the individual was dead; it didn’t matter that he was dishon-
est. Peter felt him sufficiently alive to suffer; he perceived the recti-
fication of history so conscientiously desired by Mr. Locket to be
somehow for himself not an imperative task. It had come over him
too definitely that in a case where one’s success was to hinge upon
an act of extradition it would minister most to an easy conscience to
let the success go. No, no—even should he be starving he couldn’t
make money out of Sir Dominick’s disgrace. He was almost sur-
prised at the violence of the horror with which, as he shuffled mourn-
fully about, the idea of any such profit inspired him. What was Sir
Dominick to him after all?He wished he had never come across
him.
In one of his brooding pauses at the window—the window out of
which never again apparently should he see Mrs. Ryves glide across
the little garden with the step for which he had liked her from the
first—he became aware that the rain was about to intermit and the
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sun to make some grudging amends. This was a sign that he might
go out; he had a vague perception that there were things to be done.
He had work to look for, and a cheaper lodging, and a new idea
(every idea he had ever cherished had left him), in addition to which
the promised little word was to be dropped at Mr. Locket’s door. He
looked at his watch and was surprised at the hour, for he had noth-
ing but a heartache to show for so much time. He would have to
dress quickly, but as he passed to his bedroom his eye was caught by
the little pyramid of letters which Mr. Locket had constructed on
his davenport. They startled him and, staring at them, he stopped
for an instant, half-amused, half-annoyed at their being still in ex-
istence. He had so completely destroyed them in spirit that he had
taken the act for granted, and he was now reminded of the orderly
stages of which an intention must consist to be sincere. Baron went
at the papers with all his sincerity, and at his empty grate (where
there lately had been no fire and he had only to remove a horrible
ornament of tissue-paper dear to Mrs. Bundy) he burned the collec-
tion with infinite method. It made him feel happier to watch the
worst pages turn to illegible ashes—if happiness be the right word
to apply to his sense, in the process, of something so crisp and crack-
ling that it suggested the death-rustle of bank-notes.
When ten minutes later he came back into his sitting-room, he
seemed to himself oddly, unexpectedly in the presence of a bigger
view. It was as if some interfering mass had been so displaced that
he could see more sky and more country. Yet the opposite houses
were naturally still there, and if the grimy little place looked lighter
it was doubtless only because the rain had indeed stopped and the
sun was pouring in. Peter went to the window to open it to the
altered air, and in doing so beheld at the garden gate the humble
“growler” in which a few hours before he had seen Mrs. Ryves take
her departure. It was unmistakable—he remembered the knock-
kneed white horse; but this made the fact that his friend’s luggage
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Henry James
no longer surmounted it only the more mystifying. Perhaps the
cabman had already removed the luggage—he was now on his box
smoking the short pipe that derived relish from inaction paid for.
As Peter turned into the room again his ears caught a knock at his
own door, a knock explained, as soon as he had responded, by the
hard breathing of Mrs. Bundy.
“Please, sir, it’s to say she’ve come back.”
“What has she come back for?” Baron’s question sounded ungra-
cious, but his heartache had given another throb, and he felt a dread
of another wound. It was like a practical joke.
“I think it’s for you, sir,” said Mrs. Bundy. “She’ll see you for a
moment, if you’ll be so good, in the old place.”
Peter followed his hostess downstairs, and Mrs. Bundy ushered
him, with her company flourish, into the apartment she had fondly
designated.
“I went away this morning, and I’ve only returned for an instant,”
said Mrs. Ryves, as soon as Mrs. Bundy had closed the door. He saw
that she was different now; something had happened that had made
her indulgent.
“Have you been all the way to Dover and back?”
“No, but I’ve been to Victoria. I’ve left my luggage there—I’ve
been driving about.”
“I hope you’ve enjoyed it.”
“Very much. I’ve been to see Mr. Morrish.”
“Mr. Morrish?”
“The musical publisher. I showed him our song. I played it for
him, and he’s delighted with it. He declares it’s just the thing. He
has given me fifty pounds. I think he believes in us,” Mrs. Ryves
went on, while Baron stared at the wonder—too sweet to be safe, it
seemed to him as yet—of her standing there again before him and
speaking of what they had in common. “Fifty pounds! fifty pounds!”
she exclaimed, fluttering at him her happy cheque. She had come
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back, the first thing, to tell him, and of course his share of the money
would be the half. She was rosy, jubilant, natural, she chattered like
a happy woman. She said they must do more, ever so much more.
Mr. Morrish had practically promised he would take anything that
was as good as that. She had kept her cab because she was going to
Dover; she couldn’t leave the others alone. It was a vehicle infirm
and inert, but Baron, after a little, appreciated its pace, for she had
consented to his getting in with her and driving, this time in ear-
nest, to Victoria. She had only come to tell him the good news—
she repeated this assurance more than once. They talked of it so
profoundly that it drove everything else for the time out of his head—
his duty to Mr. Locket, the remarkable sacrifice he had just achieved,
and even the odd coincidence, matching with the oddity of all the
others, of her having reverted to the house again, as if with one of
her famous divinations, at the very moment the trumpery papers,
the origin really of their intimacy, had ceased to exist. But she, on
her side, also had evidently forgotten the trumpery papers: she never
mentioned them again, and Peter Baron never boasted of what he
had done with them. He was silent for a while, from curiosity to see
if her fine nerves had really given her a hint; and then later, when it
came to be a question of his permanent attitude, he was silent, pro-
digiously, religiously, tremulously silent, in consequence of an ex-
traordinary conversation that he had with her.
This conversation took place at Dover, when he went down to
give her the money for which, at Mr. Morrish’s bank, he had ex-
changed the cheque she had left with him. That cheque, or rather
certain things it represented, had made somehow all the difference
in their relations. The difference was huge, and Baron could think
of nothing but this confirmed vision of their being able to work
fruitfully together that would account for so rapid a change. She
didn’t talk of impossibilities now—she didn’t seem to want to stop
him off; only when, the day following his arrival at Dover with the
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fifty pounds (he had after all to agree to share them with her—he
couldn’t expect her to take a present of money from him), he re-
turned to the question over which they had had their little scene the
night they dined together—on this occasion (he had brought a port-
manteau and he was staying) she mentioned that there was some-
thing very particular she had it on her conscience to tell him before
letting him commit himself. There dawned in her face as she ap-
proached the subject a light of warning that frightened him; it was
charged with something so strange that for an instant he held his
breath. This flash of ugly possibilities passed however, and it was
with the gesture of taking still tenderer possession of her, checked
indeed by the grave, important way she held up a finger, that he
answered: “Tell me everything—tell me!”
“You must know what I am—who I am; you must know espe-
cially what I’m not! There’s a name for it, a hideous, cruel name. It’s
not my fault! Others have known, I’ve had to speak of it—it has
made a great difference in my life. Surely you must have guessed!”
she went on, with the thinnest quaver of irony, letting him now
take her hand, which felt as cold as her hard duty. “Don’t you see
I’ve no belongings, no relations, no friends, nothing at all, in all the
world, of my own?I was only a poor girl.”
“A poor girl?” Baron was mystified, touched, distressed, piecing
dimly together what she meant, but feeling, in a great surge of pity,
that it was only something more to love her for.
“My mother—my poor mother,” said Mrs. Ryves.
She paused with this, and through gathering tears her eyes met
his as if to plead with him to understand. He understood, and drew
her closer, but she kept herself free still, to continue: “She was a
poor girl—she was only a governess; she was alone, she thought he
loved her. He did—I think it was the only happiness she ever knew.
But she died of it.”
“Oh, I’m so glad you tell me—it’s so grand of you!” Baron mur-
290
mured. “Then—your father?” He hesitated, as if with his hands on
old wounds.
“He had his own troubles, but he was kind to her. It was all mis-
ery and folly—he was married. He wasn’t happy—there were good
reasons, I believe, for that. I know it from letters, I know it from a
person who’s dead. Everyone is dead now—it’s too far off. That’s
the only good thing. He was very kind to me; I remember him,
though I didn’t know then, as a little girl, who he was. He put me
with some very good people—he did what he could for me. I think,
later, his wife knew—a lady who came to see me once after his death.
I was a very little girl, but I remember many things. What he could
he did—something that helped me afterwards, something that helps
me now. I think of him with a strange pity—I seehim!” said Mrs.
Ryves, with the faint past in her eyes. “You mustn’t say anything
against him,” she added, gently and gravely.
“Never—never; for he has only made it more of a rapture to care
for you.”
“You must wait, you must think; we must wait together,” she went
on. “You can’t tell, and you must give me time. Now that you know,
it’s all right; but you had to know. Doesn’t it make us better friends?”
asked Mrs. Ryves, with a tired smile which had the effect of putting
the whole story further and further away. The next moment, how-
ever, she added quickly, as if with the sense that it couldn’t be far
enough: “You don’t know, you can’t judge, you must let it settle.
Think of it, think of it; oh you will, and leave it so. I must have time
myself, oh I must! Yes, you must believe me.”
She turned away from him, and he remained looking at her a
moment. “Ah, how I shall work for you!” he exclaimed.
“You must work for yourself; I’ll help you.” Her eyes had met his
eyes again, and she added, hesitating, thinking: “You had better
know, perhaps, who he was.”
Baron shook his head, smiling confidently. “I don’t care a straw.”
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“I do—a little. He was a great man.”
“There must indeed have been some good in him.”
“He was a high celebrity. You’ve often heard of him.”
Baron wondered an instant. “I’ve no doubt you’re a princess!” he
said with a laugh. She made him nervous.
“I’m not ashamed of him. He was Sir Dominick Ferrand.”
Baron saw in her face, in a few seconds, that she had seen some-
thing in his. He knew that he stared, then turned pale; it had the
effect of a powerful shock. He was cold for an instant, as he had just
found her, with the sense of danger, the confused horror of having
dealt a blow. But the blood rushed back to its courses with his still
quicker consciousness of safety, and he could make out, as he recov-
ered his balance, that his emotion struck her simply as a violent
surprise. He gave a muffled murmur: “Ah, it’s you, my beloved!”
which lost itself as he drew her close and held her long, in the inten-
sity of his embrace and the wonder of his escape. It took more than
a minute for him to say over to himself often enough, with his hid-
den face: “Ah, she must never, never know!”
She never knew; she only learned, when she asked him casually,
that he had in fact destroyed the old documents she had had such a
comic caprice about. The sensibility, the curiosity they had had the
queer privilege of exciting in her had lapsed with the event as irre-
sponsibly as they had arisen, and she appeared to have forgotten, or
rather to attribute now to other causes, the agitation and several of
the odd incidents that accompanied them. They naturally gave Pe-
ter Baron rather more to think about, much food, indeed, for clan-
destine meditation, some of which, in spite of the pains he took not
to be caught, was noted by his friend and interpreted, to his knowl-
edge, as depression produced by the long probation she succeeded
in imposing on him. He was more patient than she could guess,
with all her guessing, for if he was put to the proof she herself was
not left undissected. It came back to him again and again that if the
292
documents he had burned proved anything they proved that Sir
Dominick Ferrand’s human errors were not all of one order. The
woman he loved was the daughter of her father, he couldn’t get over
that. What was more to the point was that as he came to know her
better and better—for they did work together under Mr. Morrish’s
protection—his affection was a quantity still less to be neglected.
He sometimes wondered, in the light of her general straightness
(their marriage had brought out even more than he believed there
was of it) whether the relics in the davenport were genuine. That
piece of furniture is still almost as useful to him as Mr. Morrish’s
patronage. There is a tremendous run, as this gentlemen calls it, on
several of their songs. Baron nevertheless still tries his hand also at
prose, and his offerings are now not always declined by the maga-
zines. But he has never approached the Promiscuous again. This
periodical published in due course a highly eulogistic study of the
remarkable career of Sir Dominick Ferrand.
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Henry James
Eugene Pickering
by
Henry James
CHAPTER I
IT WAS AT Homburg, several years ago, before the gam-ing had been
suppressed. The evening was very warm, and all the world was gath-
ered on the terrace of the Kursaal and the esplanade below it to
listen to the excellent orchestra; or half the world, rather, for the
crowd was equally dense in the gaming-rooms around the tables.
Everywhere the crowd was great. The night was perfect, the season
was at its height, the open windows of the Kursaal sent long shafts
of unnatural light into the dusky woods, and now and then, in the
intervals of the music, one might almost hear the clink of the napo-
leons and the metallic call of the croupiers rise above the watching
silence of the saloons. I had been strolling with a friend, and we at
last prepared to sit down. Chairs, however, were scarce. I had cap-
tured one, but it seemed no easy matter to find a mate for it. I was
on the point of giving up in despair, and proposing an adjournment
to the silken ottomans of the Kursaal, when I observed a young
man lounging back on one of the objects of my quest, with his feet
294
supported on the rounds of another. This was more than his share
of luxury, and I promptly approached him. He evidently belonged
to the race which has the credit of knowing best, at home and abroad,
how to make itself comfortable; but something in his appearance
suggested that his present attitude was the result of inadvertence
rather than of egotism. He was staring at the conductor of the or-
chestra and listening intently to the music. His hands were locked
round his long legs, and his mouth was half open, with rather a
foolish air. “There are so few chairs,” I said, “that I must beg you to
surrender this second one.” He started, stared, blushed, pushed the
chair away with awkward alacrity, and murmured something about
not having noticed that he had it.
“What an odd-looking youth!” said my companion, who had
watched me, as I seated myself beside her.
“Yes, he is odd-looking; but what is odder still is that I have seen
him before, that his face is familiar to me, and yet that I can’t place
him.” The orchestra was playing the Prayer from Der Freischutz,
but Weber’s lovely music only deepened the blank of memory. Who
the deuce was he?where, when, how, had I known him?It seemed
extraordinary that a face should be at once so familiar and so strange.
We had our backs turned to him, so that I could not look at him
again. When the music ceased we left our places, and I went to
consign my friend to her mamma on the terrace. In passing, I saw
that my young man had departed; I concluded that he only strik-
ingly resembled some one I knew. But who in the world was it he
resembled?The ladies went off to their lodgings, which were near
by, and I turned into the gaming-rooms and hovered about the circle
at roulette. Gradually I filtered through to the inner edge, near the
table, and, looking round, saw my puzzling friend stationed oppo-
site to me. He was watching the game, with his hands in his pock-
ets; but singularly enough, now that I observed him at my leisure,
the look of familiarity quite faded from his face. What had made us
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Henry James
call his appearance odd was his great length and leanness of limb,
his long, white neck, his blue, prominent eyes, and his ingenuous,
unconscious absorption in the scene before him. He was not hand-
some, certainly, but he looked peculiarly amiable and if his overt
wonderment savoured a trifle of rurality, it was an agreeable con-
trast to the hard, inexpressive masks about him. He was the verdant
offshoot, I said to myself, of some ancient, rigid stem; he had been
brought up in the quietest of homes, and he was having his first
glimpse of life. I was curious to see whether he would put anything
on the table; he evidently felt the temptation, but he seemed paraly-
sed by chronic embarrassment. He stood gazing at the chinking
complexity of losses and gains, shaking his loose gold in his pocket,
and every now and then passing his hand nervously over his eyes.
Most of the spectators were too attentive to the play to have many
thoughts for each other; but before long I noticed a lady who evi-
dently had an eye for her neighbours as well as for the table. She was
seated about half-way between my friend and me, and I presently
observed that she was trying to catch his eye. Though at Homburg, as
people said, “one could never be sure,” I yet doubted whether this
lady were one of those whose especial vocation it was to catch a
gentleman’s eye. She was youthful rather than elderly, and pretty rather
than plain; indeed, a few minutes later, when I saw her smile, I thought
her wonderfully pretty. She had a charming gray eye and a good deal
of yellow hair disposed in picturesque disorder; and though her fea-
tures were meagre and her complexion faded, she gave one a sense of
sentimental, artificial gracefulness. She was dressed in white muslin
very much puffed and filled, but a trifle the worse for wear, relieved
here and there by a pale blue ribbon. I used to flatter myself on guess-
ing at people’s nationality by their faces, and, as a rule, I guessed aright.
This faded, crumpled, vaporous beauty, I conceived, was a German—
such a German, somehow, as I had seen imagined in literature. Was
she not a friend of poets, a correspondent of philosophers, a muse, a
296
priestess of aesthetics—something in the way of a Bettina, a Rahel?
My conjectures, however, were speedily merged in wonderment as to
what my diffident friend was making of her. She caught his eye at
last, and raising an ungloved hand, covered altogether with blue-
gemmed rings—turquoises, sapphires, and lapis—she beckoned him
to come to her. The gesture was executed with a sort of practised
coolness, and accompanied with an appealing smile. He stared a mo-
ment, rather blankly, unable to suppose that the invitation was ad-
dressed to him; then, as it was immediately repeated with a good deal
of intensity, he blushed to the roots of his hair, wavered awkwardly,
and at last made his way to the lady’s chair. By the time he reached it
he was crimson, and wiping his forehead with his pocket-handker-
chief. She tilted back, looked up at him with the same smile, laid two
fingers on his sleeve, and said something, interrogatively, to which he
replied by a shake of the head. She was asking him, evidently, if he
had ever played, and he was saying no. Old players have a fancy that
when luck has turned her back on them they can put her into good-
humour again by having their stakes placed by a novice. Our young
man’s physiognomy had seemed to his new acquaintance to express
the perfection of inexperience, and, like a practical woman, she had
determined to make him serve her turn. Unlike most of her neighbours,
she had no little pile of gold before her, but she drew from her pocket
a double napoleon, put it into his hand, and bade him place it on a
number of his own choosing. He was evidently filled with a sort of
delightful trouble; he enjoyed the adventure, but he shrank from the
hazard. I would have staked the coin on its being his companion’s
last; for although she still smiled intently as she watched his hesita-
tion, there was anything but indifference in her pale, pretty face. Sud-
denly, in desperation, he reached over and laid the piece on the table.
My attention was diverted at this moment by my having to make way
for a lady with a great many flounces, before me, to give up her chair
to a rustling friend to whom she had promised it; when I again looked
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Henry James
across at the lady in white muslin, she was drawing in a very goodly
pile of gold with her little blue-gemmed claw. Good luck and bad, at
the Homburg tables, were equally undemonstrative, and this happy
adventuress rewarded her young friend for the sacrifice of his inno-
cence with a single, rapid, upward smile. He had innocence enough
left, however, to look round the table with a gleeful, conscious laugh,
in the midst of which his eyes encountered my own. Then suddenly
the familiar look which had vanished from his face flickered up un-
mistakably; it was the boyish laugh of a boyhood’s friend. Stupid fel-
low that I was, I had been looking at Eugene Pickering!
Though I lingered on for some time longer he failed to recognise
me. Recognition, I think, had kindled a smile in my own face; but,
less fortunate than he, I suppose my smile had ceased to be boyish.
Now that luck had faced about again, his companion played for
herself—played and won, hand over hand. At last she seemed dis-
posed to rest on her gains, and proceeded to bury them in the folds
of her muslin. Pickering had staked nothing for himself, but as he
saw her prepare to withdraw he offered her a double napoleon and
begged her to place it. She shook her head with great decision, and
seemed to bid him put it up again; but he, still blushing a good
deal, pressed her with awkward ardour, and she at last took it from
him, looked at him a moment fixedly, and laid it on a number. A
moment later the croupier was raking it in. She gave the young man
a little nod which seemed to say, “I told you so;” he glanced round
the table again and laughed; she left her chair, and he made a way
for her through the crowd. Before going home I took a turn on the
terrace and looked down on the esplanade. The lamps were out, but
the warm starlight vaguely illumined a dozen figures scattered in
couples. One of these figures, I thought, was a lady in a white dress.
I had no intention of letting Pickering go without reminding him
of our old acquaintance. He had been a very singular boy, and I was
curious to see what had become of his singularity. I looked for him
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the next morning at two or three of the hotels, and at last I discov-
ered his whereabouts. But he was out, the waiter said; he had gone
to walk an hour before. I went my way, confident that I should
meet him in the evening. It was the rule with the Homburg world
to spend its evenings at the Kursaal, and Pickering, apparently, had
already discovered a good reason for not being an exception. One of
the charms of Homburg is the fact that of a hot day you may walk
about for a whole afternoon in unbroken shade. The umbrageous
gardens of the Kursaal mingle with the charming Hardtwald, which
in turn melts away into the wooded slopes of the Taunus Moun-
tains. To the Hardtwald I bent my steps, and strolled for an hour
through mossy glades and the still, perpendicular gloom of the fir-
woods. Suddenly, on the grassy margin of a by-path, I came upon a
young man stretched at his length in the sun-checkered shade, and
kicking his heels towards a patch of blue sky. My step was so noise-
less on the turf that, before he saw me, I had time to recognise
Pickering again. He looked as if he had been lounging there for
some time; his hair was tossed about as if he had been sleeping; on
the grass near him, beside his hat and stick, lay a sealed letter. When
he perceived me he jerked himself forward, and I stood looking at
him without introducing myself—purposely, to give him a chance
to recognise me. He put on his glasses, being awkwardly near-sighted,
and stared up at me with an air of general trustfulness, but without
a sign of knowing me. So at last I introduced myself. Then he jumped
up and grasped my hands, and stared and blushed and laughed, and
began a dozen random questions, ending with a demand as to how
in the world I had known him.
“Why, you are not changed so utterly,” I said; “and after all, it’s
but fifteen years since you used to do my Latin exercises for me.”
“Not changed, eh?” he answered, still smiling, and yet speaking
with a sort of ingenuous dismay.
Then I remembered that poor Pickering had been, in those Latin
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Henry James
days, a victim of juvenile irony. He used to bring a bottle of medi-
cine to school and take a dose in a glass of water before lunch; and
every day at two o’clock, half an hour before the rest of us were
liberated, an old nurse with bushy eyebrows came and fetched him
away in a carriage. His extremely fair complexion, his nurse, and his
bottle of medicine, which suggested a vague analogy with the sleep-
ing-potion in the tragedy, caused him to be called Juliet. Certainly
Romeo’s sweetheart hardly suffered more; she was not, at least, a
standing joke in Verona. Remembering these things, I hastened to
say to Pickering that I hoped he was still the same good fellow who
used to do my Latin for me. “We were capital friends, you know,” I
went on, “then and afterwards.”
“Yes, we were very good friends,” he said, “and that makes it the
stranger I shouldn’t have known you. For you know, as a boy, I
never had many friends, nor as a man either. You see,” he added,
passing his hand over his eyes, “I am rather dazed, rather bewil-
dered at finding myself for the first time—alone.” And he jerked
back his shoulders nervously, and threw up his head, as if to settle
himself in an unwonted position. I wondered whether the old nurse
with the bushy eyebrows had remained attached to his person up to
a recent period, and discovered presently that, virtually at least, she
had. We had the whole summer day before us, and we sat down on
the grass together and overhauled our old memories. It was as if we
had stumbled upon an ancient cupboard in some dusky corner, and
rummaged out a heap of childish playthings—tin soldiers and torn
story-books, jack-knives and Chinese puzzles. This is what we re-
membered between us.
He had made but a short stay at school—not because he was tor-
mented, for he thought it so fine to be at school at all that he held
his tongue at home about the sufferings incurred through the medi-
cine-bottle, but because his father thought he was learning bad
manners. This he imparted to me in confidence at the time, and I
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remember how it increased my oppressive awe of Mr. Pickering,
who had appeared to me in glimpses as a sort of high priest of the
proprieties. Mr. Pickering was a widower—a fact which seemed to
produce in him a sort of preternatural concentration of parental
dignity. He was a majestic man, with a hooked nose, a keen dark
eye, very large whiskers, and notions of his own as to how a boy—
or his boy, at any rate—should be brought up. First and foremost,
he was to be a “gentleman”; which seemed to mean, chiefly, that he
was always to wear a muffler and gloves, and be sent to bed, after a
supper of bread and milk, at eight o’clock. School-life, on experi-
ment, seemed hostile to these observances, and Eugene was taken
home again, to be moulded into urbanity beneath the parental eye.
A tutor was provided for him, and a single select companion was
prescribed. The choice, mysteriously, fell on me, born as I was un-
der quite another star; my parents were appealed to, and I was al-
lowed for a few months to have my lessons with Eugene. The tutor,
I think, must have been rather a snob, for Eugene was treated like a
prince, while I got all the questions and the raps with the ruler. And
yet I remember never being jealous of my happier comrade, and
striking up, for the time, one of those friendships of childhood. He
had a watch and a pony and a great store of picture-books, but my
envy of these luxuries was tempered by a vague compassion which
left me free to be generous. I could go out to play alone, I could
button my jacket myself, and sit up till I was sleepy. Poor Pickering
could never take a step without asking leave, or spend half an hour
in the garden without a formal report of it when he came in. My
parents, who had no desire to see me inoculated with importunate
virtues, sent me back to school at the end of six months. After that
I never saw Eugene. His father went to live in the country, to pro-
tect the lad’s morals, and Eugene faded, in reminiscence, into a pale
image of the depressing effects of education. I think I vaguely sup-
posed that he would melt into thin air, and indeed began gradually
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Henry James
to doubt of his existence, and to regard him as one of the foolish
things one ceased to believe in as one grew older. It seemed natural
that I should have no more news of him. Our present meeting was
my first assurance that he had really survived all that muffling and
coddling.
I observed him now with a good deal of interest, for he was a rare
phenomenon—the fruit of a system persistently and uninterrupt-
edly applied. He struck me, in a fashion, as certain young monks I
had seen in Italy; he had the same candid, unsophisticated cloister
face. His education had been really almost monastic. It had found
him evidently a very compliant, yielding subject; his gentle affec-
tionate spirit was not one of those that need to be broken. It had
bequeathed him, now that he stood on the threshold of the great
world, an extraordinary freshness of impression and alertness of
desire, and I confess that, as I looked at him and met his transparent
blue eye, I trembled for the unwarned innocence of such a soul. I
became aware, gradually, that the world had already wrought a cer-
tain work upon him and roused him to a restless, troubled self-
consciousness. Everything about him pointed to an experience from
which he had been debarred; his whole organism trembled with a
dawning sense of unsuspected possibilities of feeling. This appeal-
ing tremor was indeed outwardly visible. He kept shifting himself
about on the grass, thrusting his hands through his hair, wiping a
light perspiration from his forehead, breaking out to say something
and rushing off to something else. Our sudden meeting had greatly
excited him, and I saw that I was likely to profit by a certain over-
flow of sentimental fermentation. I could do so with a good con-
science, for all this trepidation filled me with a great friendliness.
“It’s nearly fifteen years, as you say,” he began, “since you used to
call me ‘butter-fingers’ for always missing the ball. That’s a long
time to give an account of, and yet they have been, for me, such
eventless, monotonous years, that I could almost tell their history
302
in ten words. You, I suppose, have had all kinds of adventures and
travelled over half the world. I remember you had a turn for deeds
of daring; I used to think you a little Captain Cook in roundabouts,
for climbing the garden fence to get the ball when I had let it fly
over. I climbed no fences then or since. You remember my father, I
suppose, and the great care he took of me?I lost him some five
months ago. From those boyish days up to his death we were always
together. I don’t think that in fifteen years we spent half a dozen
hours apart. We lived in the country, winter and summer, seeing
but three or four people. I had a succession of tutors, and a library
to browse about in; I assure you I am a tremendous scholar. It was a
dull life for a growing boy, and a duller life for a young man grown,
but I never knew it. I was perfectly happy.” He spoke of his father at
some length, and with a respect which I privately declined to emu-
late. Mr. Pickering had been, to my sense, a frigid egotist, unable to
conceive of any larger vocation for his son than to strive to repro-
duce so irreproachable a model. “I know I have been strangely
brought up,” said my friend, “and that the result is something gro-
tesque; but my education, piece by piece, in detail, became one of
my father’s personal habits, as it were. He took a fancy to it at first
through his intense affection for my mother and the sort of worship
he paid her memory. She died at my birth, and as I grew up, it
seems that I bore an extraordinary likeness to her. Besides, my fa-
ther had a great many theories; he prided himself on his conserva-
tive opinions; he thought the usual American laisser-aller in educa-
tion was a very vulgar practice, and that children were not to grow
up like dusty thorns by the wayside. “So you see,” Pickering went
on, smiling and blushing, and yet with something of the irony of
vain regret, “I am a regular garden plant. I have been watched and
watered and pruned, and if there is any virtue in tending I ought to
take the prize at a flower show. Some three years ago my father’s
health broke down, and he was kept very much within doors. So,
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Henry James
although I was a man grown, I lived altogether at home. If I was out
of his sight for a quarter of an hour he sent some one after me. He
had severe attacks of neuralgia, and he used to sit at his window,
basking in the sun. He kept an opera-glass at hand, and when I was
out in the garden he used to watch me with it. A few days before his
death I was twenty-seven years old, and the most innocent youth, I
suppose, on the continent. After he died I missed him greatly,”
Pickering continued, evidently with no intention of making an epi-
gram. “I stayed at home, in a sort of dull stupor. It seemed as if life
offered itself to me for the first time, and yet as if I didn’t know how
to take hold of it.”
He uttered all this with a frank eagerness which increased as he
talked, and there was a singular contrast between the meagre expe-
rience he described and a certain radiant intelligence which I seemed
to perceive in his glance and tone. Evidently he was a clever fellow,
and his natural faculties were excellent. I imagined he had read a
great deal, and recovered, in some degree, in restless intellectual con-
jecture, the freedom he was condemned to ignore in practice. Op-
portunity was now offering a meaning to the empty forms with
which his imagination was stored, but it appeared to him dimly,
through the veil of his personal diffidence.
“I have not sailed round the world, as you suppose,” I said, “but I
confess I envy you the novelties you are going to behold. Coming to
Homburg you have plunged in medias res.”
He glanced at me to see if my remark contained an allusion, and
hesitated a moment. “Yes, I know it. I came to Bremen in the steamer
with a very friendly German, who undertook to initiate me into the
glories and mysteries of the Fatherland. At this season, he said, I
must begin with Homburg. I landed but a fortnight ago, and here I
am.” Again he hesitated, as if he were going to add something about
the scene at the Kursaal but suddenly, nervously, he took up the
letter which was lying beside him, looked hard at the seal with a
304
troubled frown, and then flung it back on the grass with a sigh.
“How long do you expect to be in Europe?” I asked.
“Six months I supposed when I came. But not so long—now!”
And he let his eyes wander to the letter again.
“And where shall you go—what shall you do?”
“Everywhere, everything, I should have said yesterday. But now it
is different.”
I glanced at the letter—interrogatively, and he gravely picked it
up and put it into his pocket. We talked for a while longer, but I saw
that he had suddenly become preoccupied; that he was apparently
weighing an impulse to break some last barrier of reserve. At last he
suddenly laid his hand on my arm, looked at me a moment appeal-
ingly, and cried, “Upon my word, I should like to tell you every-
thing!”
“Tell me everything, by all means,” I answered, smiling. “I desire
nothing better than to lie here in the shade and hear everything.”
“Ah, but the question is, will you understand it?No matter; you
think me a queer fellow already. It’s not easy, either, to tell you what
I feel—not easy for so queer a fellow as I to tell you in how many
ways he is queer!” He got up and walked away a moment, passing
his hand over his eyes, then came back rapidly and flung himself on
the grass again. “I said just now I always supposed I was happy; it’s
true; but now that my eyes are open, I see I was only stultified. I was
like a poodle-dog that is led about by a blue ribbon, and scoured
and combed and fed on slops. It was not life; life is learning to know
one’s self, and in that sense I have lived more in the past six weeks
than in all the years that preceded them. I am filled with this fever-
ish sense of liberation; it keeps rising to my head like the fumes of
strong wine. I find I am an active, sentient, intelligent creature,
with desires, with passions, with possible convictions—even with
what I never dreamed of, a possible will of my own! I find there is a
world to know, a life to lead, men and women to form a thousand
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Henry James
relations with. It all lies there like a great surging sea, where we must
plunge and dive and feel the breeze and breast the waves. I stand
shivering here on the brink, staring, longing, wondering, charmed
by the smell of the brine and yet afraid of the water. The world
beckons and smiles and calls, but a nameless influence from the
past, that I can neither wholly obey nor wholly resist, seems to hold
me back. I am full of impulses, but, somehow, I am not full of
strength. Life seems inspiring at certain moments, but it seems ter-
rible and unsafe; and I ask myself why I should wantonly measure
myself with merciless forces, when I have learned so well how to
stand aside and let them pass. Why shouldn’t I turn my back upon
it all and go home to—what awaits me?—to that sightless, sound-
less country life, and long days spent among old books?But if a
man IS weak, he doesn’t want to assent beforehand to his weakness;
he wants to taste whatever sweetness there may be in paying for the
knowledge. So it is that it comes back—this irresistible impulse to
take my plunge—to let myself swing, to go where liberty leads me.”
He paused a moment, fixing me with his excited eyes, and perhaps
perceived in my own an irrepressible smile at his perplexity. “‘Swing
ahead, in Heaven’s name,’ you want to say, ‘and much good may it
do you.’ I don’t know whether you are laughing at my scruples or at
what possibly strikes you as my depravity. I doubt,” he went on
gravely, “whether I have an inclination toward wrong-doing; if I
have, I am sure I shall not prosper in it. I honestly believe I may
safely take out a license to amuse myself. But it isn’t that I think of,
any more than I dream of, playing with suffering. Pleasure and pain
are empty words to me; what I long for is knowledge—some other
knowledge than comes to us in formal, colourless, impersonal pre-
cept. You would understand all this better if you could breathe for
an hour the musty in-door atmosphere in which I have always lived.
To break a window and let in light and air—I feel as if at last I must
act!”
306
“Act, by all means, now and always, when you have a chance,” I
answered. “But don’t take things too hard, now or ever. Your long
confinement makes you think the world better worth knowing than
you are likely to find it. A man with as good a head and heart as
yours has a very ample world within himself, and I am no believer
in art for art, nor in what’s called ‘life’ for life’s sake. Nevertheless,
take your plunge, and come and tell me whether you have found
the pearl of wisdom.” He frowned a little, as if he thought my sym-
pathy a trifle meagre. I shook him by the hand and laughed. “The
pearl of wisdom,” I cried, “is love; honest love in the most conve-
nient concentration of experience! I advise you to fall in love.” He
gave me no smile in response, but drew from his pocket the letter of
which I have spoken, held it up, and shook it solemnly. “What is
it?” I asked.
“It is my sentence!”
“Not of death, I hope!”
“Of marriage.”
“With whom?”
“With a person I don’t love.”
This was serious. I stopped smiling, and begged him to explain.
“It is the singular part of my story,” he said at last. “It will remind
you of an old-fashioned romance. Such as I sit here, talking in this
wild way, and tossing off provocations to destiny, my destiny is settled
and sealed. I am engaged, I am given in marriage. It’s a bequest of
the past—the past I had no hand in! The marriage was arranged by
my father, years ago, when I was a boy. The young girl’s father was
his particular friend; he was also a widower, and was bringing up his
daughter, on his side, in the same severe seclusion in which I was
spending my days. To this day I am unacquainted with the origin of
the bond of union between our respective progenitors. Mr. Vernor
was largely engaged in business, and I imagine that once upon a
time he found himself in a financial strait and was helped through it
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Henry James
by my father’s coming forward with a heavy loan, on which, in his
situation, he could offer no security but his word. Of this my father
was quite capable. He was a man of dogmas, and he was sure to
have a rule of life—as clear as if it had been written out in his beau-
tiful copper-plate hand—adapted to the conduct of a gentleman
toward a friend in pecuniary embarrassment. What is more, he was
sure to adhere to it. Mr. Vernor, I believe, got on his feet, paid his
debt, and vowed my father an eternal gratitude. His little daughter
was the apple of his eye, and he pledged himself to bring her up to
be the wife of his benefactor’s son. So our fate was fixed, parentally,
and we have been educated for each other. I have not seen my be-
trothed since she was a very plain-faced little girl in a sticky pin-
afore, hugging a one-armed doll—of the male sex, I believe—as big
as herself. Mr. Vernor is in what is called the Eastern trade, and has
been living these many years at Smyrna. Isabel has grown up there
in a white-walled garden, in an orange grove, between her father
and her governess. She is a good deal my junior; six months ago she
was seventeen; when she is eighteen we are to marry.”
He related all this calmly enough, without the accent of com-
plaint, drily rather and doggedly, as if he were weary of thinking of
it. “It’s a romance, indeed, for these dull days,” I said, “and I heart-
ily congratulate you. It’s not every young man who finds, on reach-
ing the marrying age, a wife kept in a box of rose-leaves for him. A
thousand to one Miss Vernor is charming; I wonder you don’t post
off to Smyrna.”
“You are joking,” he answered, with a wounded air, “and I am
terribly serious. Let me tell you the rest. I never suspected this supe-
rior conspiracy till something less than a year ago. My father, wish-
ing to provide against his death, informed me of it very solemnly. I
was neither elated nor depressed; I received it, as I remember, with
a sort of emotion which varied only in degree from that with which
I could have hailed the announcement that he had ordered me a set
308
of new shirts. I supposed that was the way that all marriages were
made; I had heard of their being made in heaven, and what was my
father but a divinity?Novels and poems, indeed, talked about fall-
ing in love; but novels and poems were one thing and life was an-
other. A short time afterwards he introduced me to a photograph of
my predestined, who has a pretty, but an extremely inanimate, face.
After this his health failed rapidly. One night I was sitting, as I
habitually sat for hours, in his dimly-lighted room, near his bed, to
which he had been confined for a week. He had not spoken for
some time, and I supposed he was asleep; but happening to look at
him I saw his eyes wide open, and fixed on me strangely. He was
smiling benignantly, intensely, and in a moment he beckoned to
me. Then, on my going to him—’I feel that I shall not last long,’ he
said; ‘but I am willing to die when I think how comfortably I have
arranged your future.’ He was talking of death, and anything but
grief at that moment was doubtless impious and monstrous; but
there came into my heart for the first time a throbbing sense of
being over-governed. I said nothing, and he thought my silence was
all sorrow. ‘I shall not live to see you married,’ he went on, ‘but
since the foundation is laid, that little signifies; it would be a selfish
pleasure, and I have never thought of myself but in you. To foresee
your future, in its main outline, to know to a certainty that you will
be safely domiciled here, with a wife approved by my judgment,
cultivating the moral fruit of which I have sown the seed—this will
content me. But, my son, I wish to clear this bright vision from the
shadow of a doubt. I believe in your docility; I believe I may trust
the salutary force of your respect for my memory. But I must re-
member that when I am removed you will stand here alone, face to
face with a hundred nameless temptations to perversity. The fumes
of unrighteous pride may rise into your brain and tempt you, in the
interest of a vulgar theory which it will call your independence, to
shatter the edifice I have so laboriously constructed. So I must ask
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Henry James
you for a promise—the solemn promise you owe my condition.’
And he grasped my hand. ‘You will follow the path I have marked;
you will be faithful to the young girl whom an influence as devoted
as that which has governed your own young life has moulded into
everything amiable; you will marry Isabel Vernor.’ This was pretty
‘steep,’ as we used to say at school. I was frightened; I drew away my
hand and asked to be trusted without any such terrible vow. My
reluctance startled my father into a suspicion that the vulgar theory
of independence had already been whispering to me. He sat up in
his bed and looked at me with eyes which seemed to foresee a life-
time of odious ingratitude. I felt the reproach; I feel it now. I prom-
ised! And even now I don’t regret my promise nor complain of my
father’s tenacity. I feel, somehow, as if the seeds of ultimate repose
had been sown in those unsuspecting years—as if after many days I
might gather the mellow fruit. But after many days! I will keep my
promise, I will obey; but I want to livefirst!”
“My dear fellow, you are living now. All this passionate conscious-
ness of your situation is a very ardent life. I wish I could say as much
for my own.”
“I want to forget my situation. I want to spend three months
without thinking of the past or the future, grasping whatever the
present offers me. Yesterday I thought I was in a fair way to sail with
the tide. But this morning comes this memento!” And he held up
his letter again.
“What is it?”
“A letter from Smyrna.”
“I see you have not yet broken the seal.”
“No; nor do I mean to, for the present. It contains bad news.”
“What do you call bad news?”
“News that I am expected in Smyrna in three weeks. News that
Mr. Vernor disapproves of my roving about the world. News that
his daughter is standing expectant at the altar.”
310
“Is not this pure conjecture?”
“Conjecture, possibly, but safe conjecture. As soon as I looked at
the letter something smote me at the heart. Look at the device on
the seal, and I am sure you will find it’s tarry not!!” And he flung the
letter on the grass.
“Upon my word, you had better open it,” I said.
“If I were to open it and read my summons, do you know what I
should do?I should march home and ask the Oberkellner how one
gets to Smyrna, pack my trunk, take my ticket, and not stop till I
arrived. I know I should; it would be the fascination of habit. The
only way, therefore, to wander to my rope’s end is to leave the letter
unread.”
“In your place,” I said, “curiosity would make me open it.”
He shook his head. “I have no curiosity! For a long time now the
idea of my marriage has ceased to be a novelty, and I have contem-
plated it mentally in every possible light. I fear nothing from that
side, but I do fear something from conscience. I want my hands
tied. Will you do me a favour?Pick up the letter, put it into your
pocket, and keep it till I ask you for it. When I do, you may know
that I am at my rope’s end.”
I took the letter, smiling. “And how long is your rope to be?The
Homburg season doesn’t last for ever.”
“Does it last a month?Let that be my season! A month hence you
will give it back to me.”
“To-morrow if you say so. Meanwhile, let it rest in peace!” And I
consigned it to the most sacred interstice of my pocket-book. To say
that I was disposed to humour the poor fellow would seem to be
saying that I thought his request fantastic. It was his situation, by
no fault of his own, that was fantastic, and he was only trying to be
natural. He watched me put away the letter, and when it had disap-
peared gave a soft sigh of relief. The sigh was natural, and yet it set
me thinking. His general recoil from an immediate responsibility
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Henry James
imposed by others might be wholesome enough; but if there was an
old grievance on one side, was there not possibly a new-born delu-
sion on the other?It would be unkind to withhold a reflection that
might serve as a warning; so I told him, abruptly, that I had been an
undiscovered spectator, the night before, of his exploits at roulette.
He blushed deeply, but he met my eyes with the same clear good-
humour.
“Ah, then, you saw that wonderful lady?”
“Wonderful she was indeed. I saw her afterwards, too, sitting on
the terrace in the starlight. I imagine she was not alone.”
“No, indeed, I was with her—for nearly an hour. Then I walked
home with her.”
“Ah! And did you go in?”
“No, she said it was too late to ask me; though she remarked that
in a general way she did not stand upon ceremony.”
“She did herself injustice. When it came to losing your money for
you, she made you insist.”
“Ah, you noticed that too?” cried Pickering, still quite unconfused.
“I felt as if the whole table were staring at me; but her manner was
so gracious and reassuring that I supposed she was doing nothing
unusual. She confessed, however, afterwards, that she is very eccen-
tric. The world began to call her so, she said, before she ever dreamed
of it, and at last finding that she had the reputation, in spite of
herself, she resolved to enjoy its privileges. Now, she does what she
chooses.”
“In other words, she is a lady with no reputation to lose!”
Pickering seemed puzzled; he smiled a little. “Is not that what you
say of bad women?”
“Of some—of those who are found out.”
“Well,” he said, still smiling, “I have not yet found out Madame
Blumenthal.”
“If that’s her name, I suppose she’s German.”
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“Yes; but she speaks English so well that you wouldn’t know it.
She is very clever. Her husband is dead.”
I laughed involuntarily at the conjunction of these facts, and
Pickering’s clear glance seemed to question my mirth. “You have
been so bluntly frank with me,” I said, “that I too must be frank.
Tell me, if you can, whether this clever Madame Blumenthal, whose
husband is dead, has given a point to your desire for a suspension of
communication with Smyrna.”
He seemed to ponder my question, unshrinkingly. “I think not,”
he said, at last. “I have had the desire for three months; I have known
Madame Blumenthal for less than twenty-four hours.”
“Very true. But when you found this letter of yours on your place
at breakfast, did you seem for a moment to see Madame Blumenthal
sitting opposite?”
“Opposite?”
“Opposite, my dear fellow, or anywhere in the neighbourhood.
In a word, does she interest you?”
“Very much!” he cried, joyously.
“Amen!” I answered, jumping up with a laugh. “And now, if we
are to see the world in a month, there is no time to lose. Let us begin
with the Hardtwald.”
Pickering rose, and we strolled away into the forest, talking of
lighter things. At last we reached the edge of the wood, sat down on
a fallen log, and looked out across an interval of meadow at the long
wooded waves of the Taunus. What my friend was thinking of I
can’t say; I was meditating on his queer biography, and letting my
wonderment wander away to Smyrna. Suddenly I remembered that
he possessed a portrait of the young girl who was waiting for him
there in a white-walled garden. I asked him if he had it with him.
He said nothing, but gravely took out his pocket-book and drew
forth a small photograph. It represented, as the poet says, a simple
maiden in her flower—a slight young girl, with a certain childish
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roundness of contour. There was no ease in her posture; she was
standing, stiffly and shyly, for her likeness; she wore a short-waisted
white dress; her arms hung at her sides and her hands were clasped
in front; her head was bent downward a little, and her dark eyes
fixed. But her awkwardness was as pretty as that of some angular
seraph in a mediaeval carving, and in her timid gaze there seemed to
lurk the questioning gleam of childhood. “What is this for?” her
charming eyes appeared to ask; “why have I been dressed up for this
ceremony in a white frock and amber beads?”
“Gracious powers!” I said to myself; “what an enchanting thing is
innocence!”
“That portrait was taken a year and a half ago,” said Pickering, as
if with an effort to be perfectly just. “By this time, I suppose, she
looks a little wiser.”
“Not much, I hope,” I said, as I gave it back. “She is very sweet!”
“Yes, poor girl, she is very sweet—no doubt!” And he put the
thing away without looking at it.
We were silent for some moments. At last, abruptly—“My dear
fellow,” I said, “I should take some satisfaction in seeing you imme-
diately leave Homburg.”
“Immediately?”
“To-day—as soon as you can get ready.”
He looked at me, surprised, and little by little he blushed. “There
is something I have not told you,” he said; “something that your
saying that Madame Blumenthal has no reputation to lose has made
me half afraid to tell you.”
“I think I can guess it. Madame Blumenthal has asked you to
come and play her game for her again.”
“Not at all!” cried Pickering, with a smile of triumph. “She says
that she means to play no more for the present. She has asked me to
come and take tea with her this evening.”
“Ah, then,” I said, very gravely, “of course you can’t leave Homburg.”
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He answered nothing, but looked askance at me, as if he were
expecting me to laugh. “Urge it strongly,” he said in a moment.
“Say it’s my duty—that I must.”
I didn’t quite understand him, but, feathering the shaft with a
harmless expletive, I told him that unless he followed my advice I
would never speak to him again.
He got up, stood before me, and struck the ground with his stick.
“Good!” he cried; “I wanted an occasion to break a rule—to leap a
barrier. Here it is. I stay!”
I made him a mock bow for his energy. “That’s very fine,” I said;
“but now, to put you in a proper mood for Madame Blumenthal’s
tea, we will go and listen to the band play Schubert under the lin-
dens.” And we walked back through the woods.
I went to see Pickering the next day, at his inn, and on knocking,
as directed, at his door, was surprised to hear the sound of a loud
voice within. My knock remained unnoticed, so I presently intro-
duced myself. I found no company, but I discovered my friend walk-
ing up and down the room and apparently declaiming to himself
from a little volume bound in white vellum. He greeted me heartily,
threw his book on the table, and said that he was taking a German
lesson.
“And who is your teacher?” I asked, glancing at the book.
He rather avoided meeting my eye, as he answered, after an instant’s
delay, “Madame Blumenthal.”
“Indeed! Has she written a grammar?”
“It’s not a grammar; it’s a tragedy.” And he handed me the book.
I opened it, and beheld, in delicate type, with a very large margin,
an Historisches Trauerspiel in five acts, entitled “Cleopatra.” There
were a great many marginal corrections and annotations, apparently
from the author’s hand; the speeches were very long, and there was an
inordinate number of soliloquies by the heroine. One of them, I re-
member, towards the end of the play, began in this fashion—
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“What, after all, is life but sensation, and sensation but decep-
tion?—reality that pales before the light of one’s dreams as Octavia’s
dull beauty fades beside mine?But let me believe in some intenser
bliss, and seek it in the arms of death!”
“It seems decidedly passionate,” I said. “Has the tragedy ever been
acted?”
“Never in public; but Madame Blumenthal tells me that she had
it played at her own house in Berlin, and that she herself undertook
the part of the heroine.”
Pickering’s unworldly life had not been of a sort to sharpen his
perception of the ridiculous, but it seemed to me an unmistakable
sign of his being under the charm, that this information was very
soberly offered. He was preoccupied, he was irresponsive to my ex-
perimental observations on vulgar topics—the hot weather, the inn,
the advent of Adelina Patti. At last, uttering his thoughts, he an-
nounced that Madame Blumenthal had proved to be an extraordi-
narily interesting woman. He seemed to have quite forgotten our long
talk in the Hartwaldt, and betrayed no sense of this being a confes-
sion that he had taken his plunge and was floating with the current.
He only remembered that I had spoken slightingly of the lady, and he
now hinted that it behoved me to amend my opinion. I had received
the day before so strong an impression of a sort of spiritual fastidious-
ness in my friend’s nature, that on hearing now the striking of a new
hour, as it were, in his consciousness, and observing how the echoes
of the past were immediately quenched in its music, I said to myself
that it had certainly taken a delicate hand to wind up that fine ma-
chine. No doubt Madame Blumenthal was a clever woman. It is a
good German custom at Homburg to spend the hour preceding din-
ner in listening to the orchestra in the Kurgarten; Mozart and
Beethoven, for organisms in which the interfusion of soul and sense is
peculiarly mysterious, are a vigorous stimulus to the appetite. Pickering
and I conformed, as we had done the day before, to the fashion, and
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when we were seated under the trees, he began to expatiate on his
friend’s merits.
“I don’t know whether she is eccentric or not,” he said; “to me
every one seems eccentric, and it’s not for me, yet a while, to mea-
sure people by my narrow precedents. I never saw a gaming table in
my life before, and supposed that a gambler was of necessity some
dusky villain with an evil eye. In Germany, says Madame Blumenthal,
people play at roulette as they play at billiards, and her own vener-
able mother originally taught her the rules of the game. It is a
recognised source of subsistence for decent people with small means.
But I confess Madame Blumenthal might do worse things than play
at roulette, and yet make them harmonious and beautiful. I have
never been in the habit of thinking positive beauty the most excel-
lent thing in a woman. I have always said to myself that if my heart
were ever to be captured it would be by a sort of general grace—a
sweetness of motion and tone—on which one could count for sooth-
ing impressions, as one counts on a musical instrument that is per-
fectly in tune. Madame Blumenthal has it—this grace that soothes
and satisfies; and it seems the more perfect that it keeps order and
harmony in a character really passionately ardent and active. With
her eager nature and her innumerable accomplishments nothing
would be easier than that she should seem restless and aggressive.
You will know her, and I leave you to judge whether she does seem
so! She has every gift, and culture has done everything for each.
What goes on in her mind I of course can’t say; what reaches the
observer—the admirer—is simply a sort of fragrant emanation of
intelligence and sympathy.”
“Madame Blumenthal,” I said, smiling, “might be the loveliest
woman in the world, and you the object of her choicest favours,
and yet what I should most envy you would be, not your peerless
friend, but your beautiful imagination.”
“That’s a polite way of calling me a fool,” said Pickering. “You are
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a sceptic, a cynic, a satirist! I hope I shall be a long time coming to
that.”
“You will make the journey fast if you travel by express trains. But
pray tell me, have you ventured to intimate to Madame Blumenthal
your high opinion of her?”
“I don’t know what I may have said. She listens even better than
she talks, and I think it possible I may have made her listen to a
great deal of nonsense. For after the first few words I exchanged
with her I was conscious of an extraordinary evaporation of all my
old diffidence. I have, in truth, I suppose,” he added in a moment,
“owing to my peculiar circumstances, a great accumulated fund of
unuttered things of all sorts to get rid of. Last evening, sitting there
before that charming woman, they came swarming to my lips. Very
likely I poured them all out. I have a sense of having enshrouded
myself in a sort of mist of talk, and of seeing her lovely eyes shining
through it opposite to me, like fog-lamps at sea.” And here, if I
remember rightly, Pickering broke off into an ardent parenthesis,
and declared that Madame Blumenthal’s eyes had something in them
that he had never seen in any others. “It was a jumble of crudities
and inanities,” he went on; “they must have seemed to her great
rubbish; but I felt the wiser and the stronger, somehow, for having
fired off all my guns—they could hurt nobody now if they hit—
and I imagine I might have gone far without finding another woman
in whom such an exhibition would have provoked so little of mere
cold amusement.”
“Madame Blumenthal, on the contrary,” I surmised, “entered into
your situation with warmth.”
“Exactly so—the greatest! She has felt and suffered, and now she
understands!”
“She told you, I imagine, that she understood you as if she had
made you, and she offered to be your guide, philosopher, and friend.”
“She spoke to me,” Pickering answered, after a pause, “as I had
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never been spoken to before, and she offered me, formally, all the
offices of a woman’s friendship.”
“Which you as formally accepted?”
“To you the scene sounds absurd, I suppose, but allow me to say I
don’t care!” Pickering spoke with an air of genial defiance which
was the most inoffensive thing in the world. “I was very much moved;
I was, in fact, very much excited. I tried to say something, but I
couldn’t; I had had plenty to say before, but now I stammered and
bungled, and at last I bolted out of the room.”
“Meanwhile she had dropped her tragedy into your pocket!”
“Not at all. I had seen it on the table before she came in. After-
wards she kindly offered to read German aloud with me, for the
accent, two or three times a week. ‘What shall we begin with?’ she
asked. ‘With this!’ I said, and held up the book. And she let me take
it to look it over.”
I was neither a cynic nor a satirist, but even if I had been, I might
have been disarmed by Pickering’s assurance, before we parted, that
Madame Blumenthal wished to know me and expected him to in-
troduce me. Among the foolish things which, according to his own
account, he had uttered, were some generous words in my praise, to
which she had civilly replied. I confess I was curious to see her, but
I begged that the introduction should not be immediate, for I wished
to let Pickering work out his destiny alone. For some days I saw
little of him, though we met at the Kursaal and strolled occasionally
in the park. I watched, in spite of my desire to let him alone, for the
signs and portents of the world’s action upon him—of that portion
of the world, in especial, of which Madame Blumenthal had consti-
tuted herself the agent. He seemed very happy, and gave me in a
dozen ways an impression of increased self-confidence and matu-
rity. His mind was admirably active, and always, after a quarter of
an hour’s talk with him, I asked myself what experience could really
do, that innocence had not done, to make it bright and fine. I was
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struck with his deep enjoyment of the whole spectacle of foreign
life—its novelty, its picturesqueness, its light and shade—and with
the infinite freedom with which he felt he could go and come and
rove and linger and observe it all. It was an expansion, an awaken-
ing, a coming to moral manhood. Each time I met him he spoke a
little less of Madame Blumenthal; but he let me know generally that
he saw her often, and continued to admire her. I was forced to ad-
mit to myself, in spite of preconceptions, that if she were really the
ruling star of this happy season, she must be a very superior woman.
Pickering had the air of an ingenuous young philosopher sitting at
the feet of an austere muse, and not of a sentimental spendthrift
dangling about some supreme incarnation of levity.
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CHAPTER II
MADAME BLUMENTHAL SEEMED, for the time, to have abjured the
Kursaal, and I never caught a glimpse of her. Her young friend,
apparently, was an interesting study, and the studious mind prefers
seclusion.
She reappeared, however, at last, one evening at the opera, where
from my chair I perceived her in a box, looking extremely pretty.
Adelina Patti was singing, and after the rising of the curtain I was
occupied with the stage; but on looking round when it fell for the
entr’acte, I saw that the authoress of “Cleopatra” had been joined
by her young admirer. He was sitting a little behind her, leaning
forward, looking over her shoulder and listening, while she, slowly
moving her fan to and fro and letting her eye wander over the house,
was apparently talking of this person and that. No doubt she was
saying sharp things; but Pickering was not laughing; his eyes were
following her covert indications; his mouth was half open, as it al-
ways was when he was interested; he looked intensely serious. I was
glad that, having her back to him, she was unable to see how he
looked. It seemed the proper moment to present myself and make
her my bow; but just as I was about to leave my place a gentleman,
whom in a moment I perceived to be an old acquaintance, came to
occupy the next chair. Recognition and mutual greetings followed,
and I was forced to postpone my visit to Madame Blumenthal. I
was not sorry, for it very soon occurred to me that Niedermeyer
would be just the man to give me a fair prose version of Pickering’s
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lyric tributes to his friend. He was an Austrian by birth, and had
formerly lived about Europe a great deal in a series of small diplo-
matic posts. England especially he had often visited, and he spoke
the language almost without accent. I had once spent three rainy
days with him in the house of an English friend in the country. He
was a sharp observer, and a good deal of a gossip; he knew a little
something about every one, and about some people everything. His
knowledge on social matters generally had the quality of all Ger-
man science; it was copious, minute, exhaustive.
“Do tell me,” I said, as we stood looking round the house, “who
and what is the lady in white, with the young man sitting behind
her.”
“Who?” he answered, dropping his glass. “Madame Blumenthal!
What! It would take long to say. Be introduced; it’s easily done; you will
find her charming. Then, after a week, you will tell me what she is.”
“Perhaps I should not. My friend there has known her a week,
and I don’t think he is yet able to give a coherent account of her.”
He raised his glass again, and after looking a while, “I am afraid
your friend is a little—what do you call it?—a little ‘soft.’ Poor fel-
low! he’s not the first. I have never known this lady that she has not
had some eligible youth hovering about in some such attitude as
that, undergoing the softening process. She looks wonderfully well,
from here. It’s extraordinary how those women last!”
“You don’t mean, I take it, when you talk about ‘those women,’
that Madame Blumenthal is not embalmed, for duration, in a cer-
tain infusion of respectability?”
“Yes and no. The atmosphere that surrounds her is entirely of her
own making. There is no reason in her antecedents that people should
drop their voice when they speak of her. But some women are never
at their ease till they have given some damnable twist or other to
their position before the world. The attitude of upright virtue is
unbecoming, like sitting too straight in a fauteuil. Don’t ask me for
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opinions, however; content yourself with a few facts and with an
anecdote. Madame Blumenthal is Prussian, and very well born. I
remember her mother, an old Westphalian Grafin, with principles
marshalled out like Frederick the Great’s grenadiers. She was poor,
however, and her principles were an insufficient dowry for Anastasia,
who was married very young to a vicious Jew, twice her own age. He
was supposed to have money, but I am afraid he had less than was
nominated in the bond, or else that his pretty young wife spent it
very fast. She has been a widow these six or eight years, and has
lived, I imagine, in rather a hand-to-mouth fashion. I suppose she is
some six or eight and thirty years of age. In winter one hears of her
in Berlin, giving little suppers to the artistic rabble there; in summer
one often sees her across the green table at Ems and Wiesbaden.
She’s very clever, and her cleverness has spoiled her. A year after her
marriage she published a novel, with her views on matrimony, in
the George Sand manner—beating the drum to Madame Sand’s
trumpet. No doubt she was very unhappy; Blumenthal was an old
beast. Since then she has published a lot of literature—novels and
poems and pamphlets on every conceivable theme, from the con-
version of Lola Montez to the Hegelian philosophy. Her talk is much
better than her writing. Her conjugophobia—I can’t call it by any
other name—made people think lightly of her at a time when her
rebellion against marriage was probably only theoretic. She had a
taste for spinning fine phrases, she drove her shuttle, and when she
came to the end of her yarn she found that society had turned its
back. She tossed her head, declared that at last she could breathe the
sacred air of freedom, and formally announced that she had em-
braced an ‘intellectual’ life. This meant unlimited camaraderie with
scribblers and daubers, Hegelian philosophers and Hungarian pia-
nists. But she has been admired also by a great many really clever
men; there was a time, in fact, when she turned a head as well set on
its shoulders as this one!” And Niedermeyer tapped his forehead.
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“She has a great charm, and, literally, I know no harm of her. Yet for
all that, I am not going to speak to her; I am not going near her box.
I am going to leave her to say, if she does me the honour to observe
the omission, that I too have gone over to the Philistines. It’s not
that; it is that there is something sinister about the woman. I am too
old for it to frighten me, but I am good-natured enough for it to
pain me. Her quarrel with society has brought her no happiness,
and her outward charm is only the mask of a dangerous discontent.
Her imagination is lodged where her heart should be! So long as
you amuse it, well and good; she’s radiant. But the moment you let
it flag, she is capable of dropping you without a pang. If you land
on your feet you are so much the wiser, simply; but there have been
two or three, I believe, who have almost broken their necks in the
fall.”
“You are reversing your promise,” I said, “and giving me an opin-
ion, but not an anecdote.”
“This is my anecdote. A year ago a friend of mine made her ac-
quaintance in Berlin, and though he was no longer a young man,
and had never been what is called a susceptible one, he took a great
fancy to Madame Blumenthal. He’s a major in the Prussian artil-
lery—grizzled, grave, a trifle severe, a man every way firm in the
faith of his fathers. It’s a proof of Anastasia’s charm that such a man
should have got into the habit of going to see her every day of his
life. But the major was in love, or next door to it! Every day that he
called he found her scribbling away at a little ormolu table on a lot
of half-sheets of note-paper. She used to bid him sit down and hold
his tongue for a quarter of an hour, till she had finished her chapter;
she was writing a novel, and it was promised to a publisher. Clorinda,
she confided to him, was the name of the injured heroine. The major,
I imagine, had never read a work of fiction in his life, but he knew
by hearsay that Madame Blumenthal’s literature, when put forth in
pink covers, was subversive of several respectable institutions. Be-
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sides, he didn’t believe in women knowing how to write at all, and it
irritated him to see this inky goddess correcting proof-sheets under
his nose—irritated him the more that, as I say, he was in love with
her and that he ventured to believe she had a kindness for his years
and his honours. And yet she was not such a woman as he could
easily ask to marry him. The result of all this was that he fell into the
way of railing at her intellectual pursuits and saying he should like
to run his sword through her pile of papers. A woman was clever
enough when she could guess her husband’s wishes, and learned
enough when she could read him the newspapers. At last, one day,
Madame Blumenthal flung down her pen and announced in tri-
umph that she had finished her novel. Clorinda had expired in the
arms of—some one else than her husband. The major, by way of
congratulating her, declared that her novel was immoral rubbish,
and that her love of vicious paradoxes was only a peculiarly de-
praved form of coquetry. He added, however, that he loved her in
spite of her follies, and that if she would formally abjure them he
would as formally offer her his hand. They say that women like to
be snubbed by military men. I don’t know, I’m sure; I don’t know
how much pleasure, on this occasion, was mingled with Anastasia’s
wrath. But her wrath was very quiet, and the major assured me it
made her look uncommonly pretty. ‘I have told you before,’ she
says, ‘that I write from an inner need. I write to unburden my heart,
to satisfy my conscience. You call my poor efforts coquetry, vanity,
the desire to produce a sensation. I can prove to you that it is the
quiet labour itself I care for, and not the world’s more or less flatter-
ing attention to it!’ And seizing the history of Clorinda she thrust it
into the fire. The major stands staring, and the first thing he knows
she is sweeping him a great curtsey and bidding him farewell for
ever. Left alone and recovering his wits, he fishes out Clorinda from
the embers, and then proceeds to thump vigorously at the lady’s
door. But it never opened, and from that day to the day three months
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ago when he told me the tale, he had not beheld her again.”
“By Jove, it’s a striking story,” I said. “But the question is, what
does it prove?”
“Several things. First (what I was careful not to tell my friend),
that Madame Blumenthal cared for him a trifle more than he sup-
posed; second, that he cares for her more than ever; third, that the
performance was a master-stroke, and that her allowing him to force
an interview upon her again is only a question of time.”
“And last?” I asked.
“This is another anecdote. The other day, Unter den Linden, I
saw on a bookseller’s counter a little pink-covered romance—
’Sophronia,’ by Madame Blumenthal. Glancing through it, I ob-
served an extraordinary abuse of asterisks; every two or three pages
the narrative was adorned with a portentous blank, crossed with a
row of stars.”
“Well, but poor Clorinda?” I objected, as Niedermeyer paused.
“Sophronia, my dear fellow, is simply Clorinda renamed by the
baptism of fire. The fair author came back, of course, and found
Clorinda tumbled upon the floor, a good deal scorched, but, on the
whole, more frightened than hurt. She picks her up, brushes her
off, and sends her to the printer. Wherever the flames had burnt a
hole she swings a constellation! But if the major is prepared to drop
a penitent tear over the ashes of Clorinda, I shall not whisper to him
that the urn is empty.”
Even Adelina Patti’s singing, for the next half-hour, but half availed
to divert me from my quickened curiosity to behold Madame
Blumenthal face to face. As soon as the curtain had fallen again I
repaired to her box and was ushered in by Pickering with zealous
hospitality. His glowing smile seemed to say to me, “Ay, look for
yourself, and adore!” Nothing could have been more gracious than
the lady’s greeting, and I found, somewhat to my surprise, that her
prettiness lost nothing on a nearer view. Her eyes indeed were the
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finest I have ever seen—the softest, the deepest, the most intensely
responsive. In spite of something faded and jaded in her physiog-
nomy, her movements, her smile, and the tone of her voice, espe-
cially when she laughed, had an almost girlish frankness and spon-
taneity. She looked at you very hard with her radiant gray eyes, and
she indulged while she talked in a superabundance of restless, rather
affected little gestures, as if to make you take her meaning in a cer-
tain very particular and superfine sense. I wondered whether after a
while this might not fatigue one’s attention; then meeting her charm-
ing eyes, I said, Not for a long time. She was very clever, and, as
Pickering had said, she spoke English admirably. I told her, as I
took my seat beside her, of the fine things I had heard about her
from my friend, and she listened, letting me go on some time, and
exaggerate a little, with her fine eyes fixed full upon me. “Really?”
she suddenly said, turning short round upon Pickering, who stood
behind us, and looking at him in the same way. “Is that the way you
talk about me?”
He blushed to his eyes, and I repented. She suddenly began to
laugh; it was then I observed how sweet her voice was in laughter.
We talked after this of various matters, and in a little while I
complimented her on her excellent English, and asked if she had
learnt it in England.
“Heaven forbid!” she cried. “I have never been there and wish
never to go. I should never get on with the—” I wondered what she
was going to say; the fogs, the smoke, or whist with sixpenny
stakes?—”I should never get on,” she said, “with the aristocracy! I
am a fierce democrat—I am not ashamed of it. I hold opinions
which would make my ancestors turn in their graves. I was born in
the lap of feudalism. I am a daughter of the crusaders. But I am a
revolutionist! I have a passion for freedom—my idea of happiness is
to die on a great barricade! It’s to your great country I should like to
go. I should like to see the wonderful spectacle of a great people free
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to do everything it chooses, and yet never doing anything wrong!”
I replied, modestly, that, after all, both our freedom and our good
conduct had their limits, and she turned quickly about and shook
her fan with a dramatic gesture at Pickering. “No matter, no mat-
ter!” she cried; “I should like to see the country which produced
that wonderful young man. I think of it as a sort of Arcadia—a land
of the golden age. He’s so delightfully innocent! In this stupid old
Germany, if a young man is innocent he’s a fool; he has no brains;
he’s not a bit interesting. But Mr. Pickering says the freshest things,
and after I have laughed five minutes at their freshness it suddenly
occurs to me that they are very wise, and I think them over for a
week. “True!” she went on, nodding at him. “I call them inspired
solecisms, and I treasure them up. Remember that when I next laugh
at you!”
Glancing at Pickering, I was prompted to believe that he was in a
state of beatific exaltation which weighed Madame Blumenthal’s
smiles and frowns in an equal balance. They were equally hers; they
were links alike in the golden chain. He looked at me with eyes that
seemed to say, “Did you ever hear such wit?Did you ever see such
grace?” It seemed to me that he was but vaguely conscious of the
meaning of her words; her gestures, her voice and glance, made an
absorbing harmony. There is something painful in the spectacle of
absolute enthralment, even to an excellent cause. I gave no response
to Pickering’s challenge, but made some remark upon the charm of
Adelina Patti’s singing. Madame Blumenthal, as became a “revolu-
tionist,” was obliged to confess that she could see no charm in it; it
was meagre, it was trivial, it lacked soul. “You must know that in
music, too,” she said, “I think for myself!” And she began with a
great many flourishes of her fan to explain what it was she thought.
Remarkable things, doubtless; but I cannot answer for it, for in the
midst of the explanation the curtain rose again. “You can’t be a great
artist without a great passion!” Madame Blumenthal was affirming.
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Before I had time to assent Madame Patti’s voice rose wheeling like
a skylark, and rained down its silver notes. “Ah, give me that art,” I
whispered, “and I will leave you your passion!” And I departed for
my own place in the orchestra. I wondered afterwards whether the
speech had seemed rude, and inferred that it had not on receiving a
friendly nod from the lady, in the lobby, as the theatre was empty-
ing itself. She was on Pickering’s arm, and he was taking her to her
carriage. Distances are short in Homburg, but the night was rainy,
and Madame Blumenthal exhibited a very pretty satin-shod foot as
a reason why, though but a penniless widow, she should not walk
home. Pickering left us together a moment while he went to hail
the vehicle, and my companion seized the opportunity, as she said,
to beg me to be so very kind as to come and see her. It was for a
particular reason! It was reason enough for me, of course, I answered,
that she had given me leave. She looked at me a moment with that
extraordinary gaze of hers which seemed so absolutely audacious in
its candour, and rejoined that I paid more compliments than our
young friend there, but that she was sure I was not half so sincere.
“But it’s about him I want to talk,” she said. “I want to ask you
many things; I want you to tell me all about him. He interests me;
but you see my sympathies are so intense, my imagination is so
lively, that I don’t trust my own impressions. They have misled me
more than once!” And she gave a little tragic shudder.
I promised to come and compare notes with her, and we bade her
farewell at her carriage door. Pickering and I remained a while, walk-
ing up and down the long glazed gallery of the Kursaal. I had not
taken many steps before I became aware that I was beside a man in
the very extremity of love. “Isn’t she wonderful?” he asked, with an
implicit confidence in my sympathy which it cost me some ingenu-
ity to elude. If he were really in love, well and good! For although,
now that I had seen her, I stood ready to confess to large possibili-
ties of fascination on Madame Blumenthal’s part, and even to cer-
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tain possibilities of sincerity of which my appreciation was vague,
yet it seemed to me less ominous that he should be simply smitten
than that his admiration should pique itself on being discriminat-
ing. It was on his fundamental simplicity that I counted for a happy
termination of his experiment, and the former of these alternatives
seemed to me the simpler. I resolved to hold my tongue and let him
run his course. He had a great deal to say about his happiness, about
the days passing like hours, the hours like minutes, and about Ma-
dame Blumenthal being a “revelation.” “She was nothing to-night,”
he said; “nothing to what she sometimes is in the way of brilliancy—
in the way of repartee. If you could only hear her when she tells her
adventures!”
“Adventures?” I inquired. “Has she had adventures?”
“Of the most wonderful sort!” cried Pickering, with rapture. “She
hasn’t vegetated, like me! She has lived in the tumult of life. When I
listen to her reminiscences, it’s like hearing the opening tumult of
one of Beethoven’s symphonies as it loses itself in a triumphant har-
mony of beauty and faith!”
I could only lift my eyebrows, but I desired to know before we
separated what he had done with that troublesome conscience of
his. “I suppose you know, my dear fellow,” I said, “that you are
simply in love. That’s what they happen to call your state of mind.”
He replied with a brightening eye, as if he were delighted to hear
it—”So Madame Blumenthal told me only this morning!” And see-
ing, I suppose, that I was slightly puzzled, “ I went to drive with
her,” he continued; “we drove to Konigstein, to see the old castle.
We scrambled up into the heart of the ruin and sat for an hour in
one of the crumbling old courts. Something in the solemn stillness
of the place unloosed my tongue; and while she sat on an ivied
stone, on the edge of the plunging wall, I stood there and made a
speech. She listened to me, looking at me, breaking off little bits of
stone and letting them drop down into the valley. At last she got up
330
and nodded at me two or three times silently, with a smile, as if she
were applauding me for a solo on the violin. ‘You are in love,’ she
said. ‘It’s a perfect case!’ And for some time she said nothing more.
But before we left the place she told me that she owed me an answer
to my speech. She thanked me heartily, but she was afraid that if she
took me at my word she would be taking advantage of my inexperi-
ence. I had known few women; I was too easily pleased; I thought
her better than she really was. She had great faults; I must know her
longer and find them out; I must compare her with other women—
women younger, simpler, more innocent, more ignorant; and then
if I still did her the honour to think well of her, she would listen to
me again. I told her that I was not afraid of preferring any woman
in the world to her, and then she repeated, ‘Happy man, happy
man! you are in love, you are in love!’”
I called upon Madame Blumenthal a couple of days later, in some
agitation of thought. It has been proved that there are, here and
there, in the world, such people as sincere impostors; certain char-
acters who cultivate fictitious emotions in perfect good faith. Even
if this clever lady enjoyed poor Pickering’s bedazzlement, it was con-
ceivable that, taking vanity and charity together, she should care
more for his welfare than for her own entertainment; and her offer
to abide by the result of hazardous comparison with other women
was a finer stroke than her reputation had led me to expect. She
received me in a shabby little sitting-room littered with uncut books
and newspapers, many of which I saw at a glance were French. One
side of it was occupied by an open piano, surmounted by a jar full
of white roses. They perfumed the air; they seemed to me to exhale
the pure aroma of Pickering’s devotion. Buried in an arm-chair, the
object of this devotion was reading the Revue des Deux Mondes.
The purpose of my visit was not to admire Madame Blumenthal on
my own account, but to ascertain how far I might safely leave her to
work her will upon my friend. She had impugned my sincerity the
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evening of the opera, and I was careful on this occasion to abstain
from compliments, and not to place her on her guard against my
penetration. It is needless to narrate our interview in detail; indeed,
to tell the perfect truth, I was punished for my rash attempt to
surprise her by a temporary eclipse of my own perspicacity. She sat
there so questioning, so perceptive, so genial, so generous, and so
pretty withal, that I was quite ready at the end of half an hour to
subscribe to the most comprehensive of Pickering’s rhapsodies. She
was certainly a wonderful woman. I have never liked to linger, in
memory, on that half-hour. The result of it was to prove that there
were many more things in the composition of a woman who, as
Niedermeyer said, had lodged her imagination in the place of her
heart than were dreamt of in my philosophy. Yet, as I sat there strok-
ing my hat and balancing the account between nature and art in my
affable hostess, I felt like a very competent philosopher. She had
said she wished me to tell her everything about our friend, and she
questioned me as to his family, his fortune, his antecedents, and his
character. All this was natural in a woman who had received a pas-
sionate declaration of love, and it was expressed with an air of charmed
solicitude, a radiant confidence that there was really no mistake about
his being a most distinguished young man, and that if I chose to be
explicit, I might deepen her conviction to disinterested ecstasy, which
might have almost provoked me to invent a good opinion, if I had
not had one ready made. I told her that she really knew Pickering
better than I did, and that until we met at Homburg I had not seen
him since he was a boy.
“But he talks to you freely,” she answered; “I know you are his
confidant. He has told me certainly a great many things, but I al-
ways feel as if he were keeping something back; as if he were hold-
ing something behind him, and showing me only one hand at once.
He seems often to be hovering on the edge of a secret. I have had
several friendships in my life—thank Heaven! but I have had none
332
more dear to me than this one. Yet in the midst of it I have the
painful sense of my friend being half afraid of me; of his thinking
me terrible, strange, perhaps a trifle out of my wits. Poor me! If he
only knew what a plain good soul I am, and how I only want to
know him and befriend him!”
These words were full of a plaintive magnanimity which made
mistrust seem cruel. How much better I might play providence over
Pickering’s experiments with life if I could engage the fine instincts
of this charming woman on the providential side! Pickering’s secret
was, of course, his engagement to Miss Vernor; it was natural enough
that he should have been unable to bring himself to talk of it to
Madame Blumenthal. The simple sweetness of this young girl’s face
had not faded from my memory; I could not rid myself of the sus-
picion that in going further Pickering might fare much worse. Ma-
dame Blumenthal’s professions seemed a virtual promise to agree
with me, and, after some hesitation, I said that my friend had, in
fact, a substantial secret, and that perhaps I might do him a good
turn by putting her in possession of it. In as few words as possible I
told her that Pickering stood pledged by filial piety to marry a young
lady at Smyrna. She listened intently to my story; when I had fin-
ished it there was a faint flush of excitement in each of her cheeks.
She broke out into a dozen exclamations of admiration and com-
passion. “What a wonderful tale—what a romantic situation! No
wonder poor Mr. Pickering seemed restless and unsatisfied; no won-
der he wished to put off the day of submission. And the poor little
girl at Smyrna, waiting there for the young Western prince like the
heroine of an Eastern tale! She would give the world to see her pho-
tograph; did I think Mr. Pickering would show it to her?But never
fear; she would ask nothing indiscreet! Yes, it was a marvellous story,
and if she had invented it herself, people would have said it was
absurdly improbable.” She left her seat and took several turns about
the room, smiling to herself, and uttering little German cries of
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wonderment. Suddenly she stopped before the piano and broke into
a little laugh; the next moment she buried her face in the great
bouquet of roses. It was time I should go, but I was indisposed to
leave her without obtaining some definite assurance that, as far as
pity was concerned, she pitied the young girl at Smyrna more than
the young man at Homburg.
“Of course you know what I wished in telling you this,” I said,
rising. “She is evidently a charming creature, and the best thing he
can do is to marry her. I wished to interest you in that view of it.”
She had taken one of the roses from the vase and was arranging it
in the front of her dress. Suddenly, looking up, “Leave it to me,
leave it to me!” she cried. “I am interested!” And with her little blue-
gemmed hand she tapped her forehead. “I am deeply interested!”
And with this I had to content myself. But more than once the
next day I repented of my zeal, and wondered whether a providence
with a white rose in her bosom might not turn out a trifle too hu-
man. In the evening, at the Kursaal, I looked for Pickering, but he
was not visible, and I reflected that my revelation had not as yet, at
any rate, seemed to Madame Blumenthal a reason for prescribing a
cooling-term to his passion. Very late, as I was turning away, I saw
him arrive—with no small satisfaction, for I had determined to let
him know immediately in what way I had attempted to serve him.
But he straightway passed his arm through my own and led me off
towards the gardens. I saw that he was too excited to allow me to
speak first.
“I have burnt my ships!” he cried, when we were out of earshot of
the crowd. “I have told her everything. I have insisted that it’s simple
torture for me to wait with this idle view of loving her less. It’s well
enough for her to ask it, but I feel strong enough now to override
her reluctance. I have cast off the millstone from round my neck. I
care for nothing, I know nothing, but that I love her with every
pulse of my being—and that everything else has been a hideous
334
dream, from which she may wake me into blissful morning with a
single word!”
I held him off at arm’s-length and looked at him gravely. “You
have told her, you mean, of your engagement to Miss Vernor?”
“The whole story! I have given it up—I have thrown it to the
winds. I have broken utterly with the past. It may rise in its grave
and give me its curse, but it can’t frighten me now. I have a right to
be happy, I have a right to be free, I have a right not to bury myself
alive. It was not I who promised—I was not born then. I myself, my
soul, my mind, my option—all this is but a month old! Ah,” he
went on, “if you knew the difference it makes—this having chosen
and broken and spoken! I am twice the man I was yesterday! Yester-
day I was afraid of her; there was a kind of mocking mystery of
knowledge and cleverness about her, which oppressed me in the
midst of my love. But now I am afraid of nothing but of being too
happy!”
I stood silent, to let him spend his eloquence. But he paused a
moment, and took off his hat and fanned himself. “Let me perfectly
understand,” I said at last. “You have asked Madame Blumenthal to
be your wife?”
“The wife of my intelligent choice!”
“And does she consent?”
“She asks three days to decide.”
“Call it four! She has known your secret since this morning. I am
bound to let you know I told her.”
“So much the better!” cried Pickering, without apparent resent-
ment or surprise. “It’s not a brilliant offer for such a woman, and in
spite of what I have at stake, I feel that it would be brutal to press
her.”
“What does she say to your breaking your promise?” I asked in a
moment.
Pickering was too much in love for false shame. “She tells me that
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she loves me too much to find courage to condemn me. She agrees
with me that I have a right to be happy. I ask no exemption from
the common law. What I claim is simply freedom to try to be!”
Of course I was puzzled; it was not in that fashion that I had
expected Madame Blumenthal to make use of my information. But
the matter now was quite out of my hands, and all I could do was to
bid my companion not work himself into a fever over either for-
tune.
The next day I had a visit from Niedermeyer, on whom, after our
talk at the opera, I had left a card. We gossiped a while, and at last
he said suddenly, “By the way, I have a sequel to the history of
Clorinda. The major is at Homburg!”
“Indeed!” said I. “Since when?”
“These three days.”
“And what is he doing?”
“He seems,” said Niedermeyer, with a laugh, “to be chiefly occu-
pied in sending flowers to Madame Blumenthal. That is, I went
with him the morning of his arrival to choose a nosegay, and noth-
ing would suit him but a small haystack of white roses. I hope it was
received.”
“I can assure you it was,” I cried. “I saw the lady fairly nestling her
head in it. But I advise the major not to build upon that. He has a
rival.”
“Do you mean the soft young man of the other night?”
“Pickering is soft, if you will, but his softness seems to have served
him. He has offered her everything, and she has not yet refused it.”
I had handed my visitor a cigar, and he was puffing it in silence. At
last he abruptly asked if I had been introduced to Madame
Blumenthal, and, on my affirmative, inquired what I thought of
her. “I will not tell you,” I said, “or you’ll call ME soft.”
He knocked away his ashes, eyeing me askance. “I have noticed
your friend about,” he said, “and even if you had not told me, I
336
should have known he was in love. After he has left his adored, his
face wears for the rest of the day the expression with which he has
risen from her feet, and more than once I have felt like touching his
elbow, as you would that of a man who has inadvertently come into
a drawing-room in his overshoes. You say he has offered our friend
everything; but, my dear fellow, he has not everything to offer her.
He evidently is as amiable as the morning, but the lady has no taste
for daylight.”
“I assure you Pickering is a very interesting fellow,” I said.
“Ah, there it is! Has he not some story or other?Isn’t he an or-
phan, or a natural child, or consumptive, or contingent heir to great
estates?She will read his little story to the end, and close the book
very tenderly and smooth down the cover; and then, when he least
expects it, she will toss it into the dusty limbo of her other romances.
She will let him dangle, but she will let him drop!”
“Upon my word,” I cried, with heat, “if she does, she will be a
very unprincipled little creature!”
Niedermeyer shrugged his shoulders. “I never said she was a saint!”
Shrewd as I felt Niedermeyer to be, I was not prepared to take his
simple word for this event, and in the evening I received a commu-
nication which fortified my doubts. It was a note from Pickering,
and it ran as follows:—
“My Dear Friend—I have every hope of being happy, but I am to
go to Wiesbaden to learn my fate. Madame Blumenthal goes thither
this afternoon to spend a few days, and she allows me to accompany
her. Give me your good wishes; you shall hear of the result. E. P.”
One of the diversions of Homburg for new-comers is to dine in
rotation at the different tables d’hote. It so happened that, a couple
of days later, Niedermeyer took pot-luck at my hotel, and secured a
seat beside my own. As we took our places I found a letter on my
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plate, and, as it was postmarked Wiesbaden, I lost no time in open-
ing it. It contained but three lines—”I am happy—I am accepted—
an hour ago. I can hardly believe it’s your poor friend. E. P.”
I placed the note before Niedermeyer; not exactly in triumph, but
with the alacrity of all felicitous confutation. He looked at it much
longer than was needful to read it, stroking down his beard gravely,
and I felt it was not so easy to confute a pupil of the school of
Metternich. At last, folding the note and handing it back, “Has
your friend mentioned Madame Blumenthal’s errand at Wiesbaden?”
he asked.
“You look very wise. I give it up!” said I.
“She is gone there to make the major follow her. He went by the
next train.”
“And has the major, on his side, dropped you a line?”
“He is not a letter-writer.”
“Well,” said I, pocketing my letter, “with this document in my
hand I am bound to reserve my judgment. We will have a bottle of
Johannisberg, and drink to the triumph of virtue.”
For a whole week more I heard nothing from Pickering—some-
what to my surprise, and, as the days went by, not a little to my
discomposure. I had expected that his bliss would continue to over-
flow in brief bulletins, and his silence was possibly an indication
that it had been clouded. At last I wrote to his hotel at Wiesbaden,
but received no answer; whereupon, as my next resource, I repaired
to his former lodging at Homburg, where I thought it possible he
had left property which he would sooner or later send for. There I
learned that he had indeed just telegraphed from Cologne for his
luggage. To Cologne I immediately despatched a line of inquiry as
to his prosperity and the cause of his silence. The next day I re-
ceived three words in answer—a simple uncommented request that
I would come to him. I lost no time, and reached him in the course
338
of a few hours. It was dark when I arrived, and the city was sheeted
in a cold autumnal rain. Pickering had stumbled, with an indiffer-
ence which was itself a symptom of distress, on a certain musty old
Mainzerhof, and I found him sitting over a smouldering fire in a
vast dingy chamber which looked as if it had grown gray with watch-
ing the ennui of ten generations of travellers. Looking at him, as he
rose on my entrance, I saw that he was in extreme tribulation. He
was pale and haggard; his face was five years older. Now, at least, in
all conscience, he had tasted of the cup of life! I was anxious to
know what had turned it so suddenly to bitterness; but I spared him
all importunate curiosity, and let him take his time. I accepted tac-
itly his tacit confession of distress, and we made for a while a feeble
effort to discuss the picturesqueness of Cologne. At last he rose and
stood a long time looking into the fire, while I slowly paced the
length of the dusky room.
“Well!” he said, as I came back; “I wanted knowledge, and I cer-
tainly know something I didn’t a month ago.” And herewith, calmly
and succinctly enough, as if dismay had worn itself out, he related
the history of the foregoing days. He touched lightly on details; he
evidently never was to gush as freely again as he had done during
the prosperity of his suit. He had been accepted one evening, as
explicitly as his imagination could desire, and had gone forth in his
rapture and roamed about till nearly morning in the gardens of the
Conversation-house, taking the stars and the perfumes of the sum-
mer night into his confidence. “It is worth it all, almost,” he said,
“to have been wound up for an hour to that celestial pitch. No man,
I am sure, can ever know it but once.” The next morning he had
repaired to Madame Blumenthal’s lodging and had been met, to his
amazement, by a naked refusal to see him. He had strode about for
a couple of hours—in another mood—and then had returned to
the charge. The servant handed him a three-cornered note; it con-
tained these words: “Leave me alone to-day; I will give you ten min-
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utes to-morrow evening.” Of the next thirty-six hours he could give
no coherent account, but at the appointed time Madame Blumenthal
had received him. Almost before she spoke there had come to him a
sense of the depth of his folly in supposing he knew her. “One has
heard all one’s days,” he said, “of people removing the mask; it’s one
of the stock phrases of romance. Well, there she stood with her
mask in her hand. Her face,” he went on gravely, after a pause—
”her face was horrible!” … “I give you ten minutes,” she had said,
pointing to the clock. “Make your scene, tear your hair, brandish
your dagger!” And she had sat down and folded her arms. “It’s not a
joke,” she cried, “it’s dead earnest; let us have it over. You are dis-
missed—have you nothing to say?” He had stammered some fran-
tic demand for an explanation; and she had risen and come near
him, looking at him from head to feet, very pale, and evidently
more excited than she wished him to see. “I have done with you!”
she said, with a smile; “you ought to have done with me! It has all
been delightful, but there are excellent reasons why it should come
to an end.” “You have been playing a part, then,” he had gasped
out; “you never cared for me?” “Yes; till I knew you; till I saw how
far you would go. But now the story’s finished; we have reached the
denoument. We will close the book and be good friends.” “To see
how far I would go?” he had repeated. “You led me on, meaning all
the while to do this!” “I led you on, if you will. I received your visits,
in season and out! Sometimes they were very entertaining; some-
times they bored me fearfully. But you were such a very curious case
of—what shall I call it?—of sincerity, that I determined to take good
and bad together. I wanted to make you commit yourself unmistak-
ably. I should have preferred not to bring you to this place; but that
too was necessary. Of course I can’t marry you; I can do better. So
can you, for that matter; thank your fate for it. You have thought
wonders of me for a month, but your good-humour wouldn’t last. I
am too old and too wise; you are too young and too foolish. It
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seems to me that I have been very good to you; I have entertained
you to the top of your bent, and, except perhaps that I am a little
brusque just now, you have nothing to complain of. I would have
let you down more gently if I could have taken another month to it;
but circumstances have forced my hand. Abuse me, curse me, if you
like. I will make every allowance!” Pickering listened to all this in-
tently enough to perceive that, as if by some sudden natural cata-
clysm, the ground had broken away at his feet, and that he must
recoil. He turned away in dumb amazement. “I don’t know how I
seemed to be taking it,” he said, “but she seemed really to desire—
I don’t know why—something in the way of reproach and vitupera-
tion. But I couldn’t, in that way, have uttered a syllable. I was sick-
ened; I wanted to get away into the air—to shake her off and come
to my senses. ‘Have you nothing, nothing, nothing to say?’ she cried,
as if she were disappointed, while I stood with my hand on the
door. ‘Haven’t I treated you to talk enough?’ I believed I answered.
‘You will write to me then, when you get home?’ ‘I think not,’ said
I. ‘Six months hence, I fancy, you will come and see me!’ ‘Never!’
said I. ‘That’s a confession of stupidity,’ she answered. ‘It means
that, even on reflection, you will never understand the philosophy
of my conduct.’ The word ‘philosophy’ seemed so strange that I
verily believe I smiled. ‘I have given you all that you gave me,’ she
went on. ‘Your passion was an affair of the head.’ ‘I only wish you
had told me sooner that you considered it so!’ I exclaimed. And I
went my way. The next day I came down the Rhine. I sat all day on
the boat, not knowing where I was going, where to get off. I was in
a kind of ague of terror; it seemed to me I had seen something
infernal. At last I saw the cathedral towers here looming over the
city. They seemed to say something to me, and when the boat
stopped, I came ashore. I have been here a week. I have not slept at
night—and yet it has been a week of rest!”
It seemed to me that he was in a fair way to recover, and that his
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Henry James
own philosophy, if left to take its time, was adequate to the occa-
sion. After his story was once told I referred to his grievance but
once—that evening, later, as we were about to separate for the night.
“Suffer me to say that there was some truth in her account of your
relations,” I said. “You were using her intellectually, and all the while,
without your knowing it, she was using you. It was diamond cut
diamond. Her needs were the more superficial, and she got tired of
the game first.” He frowned and turned uneasily away, but without
contradicting me. I waited a few moments, to see if he would re-
member, before we parted, that he had a claim to make upon me.
But he seemed to have forgotten it.
The next day we strolled about the picturesque old city, and of
course, before long, went into the cathedral. Pickering said little; he
seemed intent upon his own thoughts. He sat down beside a pillar
near a chapel, in front of a gorgeous window, and, leaving him to
his meditations, I wandered through the church. When I came back
I saw he had something to say. But before he had spoken I laid my
hand on his shoulder and looked at him with a significant smile. He
slowly bent his head and dropped his eyes, with a mixture of assent
and humility. I drew forth from where it had lain untouched for a
month the letter he had given me to keep, placed it silently on his
knee, and left him to deal with it alone.
Half an hour later I returned to the same place, but he had gone,
and one of the sacristans, hovering about and seeing me looking for
Pickering, said he thought he had left the church. I found him in
his gloomy chamber at the inn, pacing slowly up and down. I should
doubtless have been at a loss to say just what effect I expected the
letter from Smyrna to produce; but his actual aspect surprised me.
He was flushed, excited, a trifle irritated.
“Evidently,” I said, “you have read your letter.”
“It is proper I should tell you what is in it,” he answered. “When
I gave it to you a month ago, I did my friends injustice.”
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“You called it a ‘summons,’ I remember.”
“I was a great fool! It’s a release!”
“From your engagement?”
“From everything! The letter, of course, is from Mr. Vernor. He
desires to let me know at the earliest moment that his daughter,
informed for the first time a week before of what had been expected
of her, positively refuses to be bound by the contract or to assent to
my being bound. She had been given a week to reflect, and had
spent it in inconsolable tears. She had resisted every form of persua-
sion! from compulsion, writes Mr. Vernor, he naturally shrinks. The
young lady considers the arrangement ‘horrible.’ After accepting
her duties cut and dried all her life, she pretends at last to have a
taste of her own. I confess I am surprised; I had been given to be-
lieve that she was stupidly submissive, and would remain so to the
end of the chapter. Not a bit of it. She has insisted on my being
formally dismissed, and her father intimates that in case of non-
compliance she threatens him with an attack of brain fever. Mr.
Vernor condoles with me handsomely, and lets me know that the
young lady’s attitude has been a great shock to his nerves. He adds
that he will not aggravate such regret as I may do him the honour to
entertain, by any allusions to his daughter’s charms and to the mag-
nitude of my loss, and he concludes with the hope that, for the
comfort of all concerned, I may already have amused my fancy with
other ‘views.’ He reminds me in a postscript that, in spite of this
painful occurrence, the son of his most valued friend will always be
a welcome visitor at his house. I am free, he observes; I have my life
before me; he recommends an extensive course of travel. Should my
wanderings lead me to the East, he hopes that no false embarrass-
ment will deter me from presenting myself at Smyrna. He can prom-
ise me at least a friendly reception. It’s a very polite letter.”
Polite as the letter was, Pickering seemed to find no great exhila-
ration in having this famous burden so handsomely lifted from his
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Henry James
spirit. He began to brood over his liberation in a manner which you
might have deemed proper to a renewed sense of bondage. “Bad
news,” he had called his letter originally; and yet, now that its con-
tents proved to be in flat contradiction to his foreboding, there was
no impulsive voice to reverse the formula and declare the news was
good. The wings of impulse in the poor fellow had of late been
terribly clipped. It was an obvious reflection, of course, that if he
had not been so stiffly certain of the matter a month before, and
had gone through the form of breaking Mr. Vernor’s seal, he might
have escaped the purgatory of Madame Blumenthal’s sub-acid blan-
dishments. But I left him to moralise in private; I had no desire, as
the phrase is, to rub it in. My thoughts, moreover, were following
another train; I was saying to myself that if to those gentle graces of
which her young visage had offered to my fancy the blooming prom-
ise, Miss Vernor added in this striking measure the capacity for mag-
nanimous action, the amendment to my friend’s career had been
less happy than the rough draught. Presently, turning about, I saw
him looking at the young lady’s photograph. “Of course, now,” he
said, “I have no right to keep it!” And before I could ask for another
glimpse of it, he had thrust it into the fire.
“I am sorry to be saying it just now,” I observed after a while, “but
I shouldn’t wonder if Miss Vernor were a charming creature.”
“Go and find out,” he answered, gloomily. “The coast is clear. My
part is to forget her,” he presently added. “It ought not to be hard.
But don’t you think,” he went on suddenly, “that for a poor fellow
who asked nothing of fortune but leave to sit down in a quiet cor-
ner, it has been rather a cruel pushing about?”
Cruel indeed, I declared, and he certainly had the right to de-
mand a clean page on the book of fate and a fresh start. Mr. Vernor’s
advice was sound; he should amuse himself with a long journey. If it
would be any comfort to him, I would go with him on his way.
Pickering assented without enthusiasm; he had the embarrassed look
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of a man who, having gone to some cost to make a good appearance
in a drawing-room, should find the door suddenly slammed in his
face. We started on our journey, however, and little by little his en-
thusiasm returned. He was too capable of enjoying fine things to
remain permanently irresponsive, and after a fortnight spent among
pictures and monuments and antiquities, I felt that I was seeing
him for the first time in his best and healthiest mood. He had had a
fever, and then he had had a chill; the pendulum had swung right
and left in a manner rather trying to the machine; but now, at last,
it was working back to an even, natural beat. He recovered in a
measure the generous eloquence with which he had fanned his flame
at Homburg, and talked about things with something of the same
passionate freshness. One day when I was laid up at the inn at Bruges
with a lame foot, he came home and treated me to a rhapsody about
a certain meek-faced virgin of Hans Memling, which seemed to me
sounder sense than his compliments to Madame Blumenthal. He
had his dull days and his sombre moods—hours of irresistible ret-
rospect; but I let them come and go without remonstrance, because
I fancied they always left him a trifle more alert and resolute. One
evening, however, he sat hanging his head in so doleful a fashion
that I took the bull by the horns and told him he had by this time
surely paid his debt to penitence, and that he owed it to himself to
banish that woman for ever from his thoughts.
He looked up, staring; and then with a deep blush—”That
woman?” he said. “I was not thinking of Madame Blumenthal!”
After this I gave another construction to his melancholy. Taking
him with his hopes and fears, at the end of six weeks of active obser-
vation and keen sensation, Pickering was as fine a fellow as need be.
We made our way down to Italy and spent a fortnight at Venice.
There something happened which I had been confidently expect-
ing; I had said to myself that it was merely a question of time. We
had passed the day at Torcello, and came floating back in the glow
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Henry James
of the sunset, with measured oar-strokes. “I am well on the way,”
Pickering said; “I think I will go!”
We had not spoken for an hour, and I naturally asked him, Where?
His answer was delayed by our getting into the Piazzetta. I stepped
ashore first and then turned to help him. As he took my hand he
met my eyes, consciously, and it came. “To Smyrna!”
A couple of days later he started. I had risked the conjecture that
Miss Vernor was a charming creature, and six months afterwards he
wrote me that I was right.

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